Putting Things in Order

Richard Wilhelm (1873-1930) was a sinologist, theologian and missionary. One of his accomplishments was to translate the Tao Te Ching into German (It was then subsequently translated into other languages). He was a personal friend of Carl Jung. He spent more than twenty years in China becoming fluent in Chinese and was a great champion of Oriental thinking in the West.


He recounted a story from his experience living in a village in one of the outer provinces of China. This was recorded by Jung in his “Vision Seminars”.


In one remote place where he was living there developed a terrible drought. As the months went by with no sign of rain people of various faiths took what measures they could to hasten the onset of rain.


He reported, “The Catholics made processions, the Protestants made prayers and the Chinese burnt joss sticks and fired off guns to frighten away the demons of drought.” But all of this was to no avail.


Finally the Chinese said, “We will have to fetch the Rainmaker.”


So they sent an emissary off to an adjoining province and within a week he returned with the Rainmaker. The Rainmaker seemed unimpressive in stature or demeanor. He was a little wizened up old man who carried a bundle with him of a few essentials wrapped up in some canvas.


They politely asked the old man was there anything he required to go about his work, but he wanted nothing but a quiet little house where he might stay for a few days. A little hut was made available to him and for three days he remained locked up inside.


On the fourth day large black clouds rolled in from the north and by late afternoon a heavy snow storm had started blanketing the land with snow to a depth they’d never seen at this time of year. The villagers were elated and talked in awe about the powers of the Rainmaker.


In true rational European fashion, Wilhelm went to enquire of the Rainmaker his method.


“They call you the Rainmaker,” he said. “Will you tell me how you made it snow?”


The little Chinese man said humbly, “I did not make the snow. I am not responsible.”


“But what have you done these three days?”


“Oh, I can explain that. I come from another country where things are in order. Here they are out of order. They are not as they should be by the ordinance of Heaven. Therefore this whole country is not in Tao. Naturally when I arrived in such a place I was by effect also not in order because I am in a disordered country. So I meditated for three days until I was back in Tao and then naturally the rains came!”


Because of our consciousness we have to deal with an “inner world” of mind as well as an “outer world,” of material things. Western thinking often implies (wrongly) that the quality of our “inner world” is greatly impacted by the “outer world.” This little story is turning that notion on its head by proposing that our “inner world” can greatly impact our “outer world”.


Buddhism, Taoism, Vedanta and the practices of the Christian and Sufi Mystics and others are really all about training the mind. When the mind is in order we not only acquire equanimity but we are able to see the world in more helpful ways. Much of human suffering comes from our cravings, desires and attachments. A mind in order can put such things aside. A mind in order is less likely to have its sense of inner well-being impacted by its exterior world. Most of the dysfunctional behaviours we encounter are stimulated not so much from how the world impacts on us but how we interpret its impacts on us – our worldview. A trained mind sees the world in more useful ways. Most significantly a mind in order has a huge positive impact on the world around it.


I don’t know if it can bring rain but, more importantly, it can bring well-being. And isn’t that the goal of all of us?


Again as it is written in the Tao Te Ching,

The sage manages affairs without action
And spreads doctrines without words . . .
By acting without action, all things will be in order.


2 Replies to “Putting Things in Order”

  1. Good to see a blog that can’t conjure any responses from your readership Ted. I expect you really had some folk getting concerned with the concept of the inner world changing the outer world until you clarified at the end. It is worth consideration however. If we are feeling good, are very up beat and all smiles people around us brighten and are happier. When we are all gloom and doom that spreads just as easily. We do therefore change the outer world a little with our inner world. I have heard of stories from people who have met the Dalai Lama and they say that he has such a presence of peace and contentment that he is just a great person to be around. I don’t think he goes out of his way to be full of life and energy but that inner contentment just seems to find its way out and into those around him.

    It takes effort to acquire a little inner peace through meditation though and I expect that most of us are too busy trying to get the things we believe will make us happy to be happy.

  2. Thanks Greg. It is probably evident that I will never be a “New Age” guru. I am sure that someone like Deepak Chopra would have ventured an explanation that the gamma waves produced by the mind in meditation are at just the right frequency to ionise the immediate atmosphere which phenomena are then magnified by quantum effects to destabilise atmospheric conditions to a degree that precipitation is initiated. It is beyond my capability to make such a connection!

    I am content that meditation helps us train our minds and improve our well-being. And as you rightly point out the equanimity that results does impact other people. You and I both know folk whose company we enjoy because they are able to suppress their egos, live in the present and not pretend to be anything but what they are at a fundamental level.

    It is hard not to believe, whatever your religious disposition, that this is not the Tao at work!

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