Confucius passed Chang Ju and Jie Ni, who were yoked together pulling a plow through a field. He sent Zilu to ask them where the ford was to be found.
Chang Ju inquired, “That fellow holding the reins there—who is he?”
Zilu answered, “That is Confucius.”
“Do you mean Confucius of Lu?”
“Then he should know where the ford is.”
Zilu then asked Jie Ni.
Jie Ni also replied with a question: “Who are you?”
“I am Zilu.”
“The disciple of Confucius of Lu?”
“The whole world is as if engulfed in a great flood, and who can change it? Given this, instead of following a scholar who merely avoids the bad people [of this age], wouldn’t it be better for you to follow scholars like us, who avoid the age itself?” He then proceeded to cover up his seeds with dirt and did not pause again.
Zilu returned and reported this conversation to Confucius. The Master was lost in thought for a moment, and then remarked, “A person cannot flock together with the birds and the beasts. If I do not associate with the followers of men, then with whom would I associate? If the Way were realized in the world, then I would not need to change anything.”Confucius, & Slingerland, E. (2003). Analects: With selections from traditional commentaries. Hackett Publishing.
Changju and Jieni had teamed up to do the plowing when Confucius passed by. He sent Zilu to ask them where the ford was.
Changju said, Who is that driving the carriage?
That’s Kong Qiu, said Zilu.
Kong Qiu of Lu?
Yes, Zilu replied.
Then he must know where the ford is.
Zilu put the same question to Jieni. Jieni said, Who are you?
I’m Zhongyou (Zilu).
Are you a follower of this Kong Qiu of Lu?
I am, Zilu replied.
Turmoil, turmoil, said Jieni—the whole world’s that way, and who’s going to change it? Rather than following someone who shuns this person or that, wouldn’t it be better to follow one who shuns the world itself? Then he went back to breaking up the clods, never stopping.
Zilu returned and reported this to Confucius, who sighed and said, One cannot simply live with the birds and beasts. If I am not to join with my fellow men, who am I to join with? If the Way prevailed in the world, I would not try to change things.Confucius, & Watson, B. (2007). The Analects of Confucius. Columbia University Press.