Thus spake the master of charcoal: "Starting the charcoal burning is the first step towards Enlightenment."


A master was explaining the nature of Tao to one of his novices. "The Tao is embodied in all charcoal and in all fire - regardless of how the fire is started," said the master.

"Is the Tao in a fire started with starter cubes?" asked the novice.
"It is," came the reply.

"Is the Tao in a fire started with newspaper?" asked the novice.
Again came the reply, "It is."

"Is the Tao in a fire started with MAPP gas?" continued the novice.
"It is even in a fire started with MAPP gas," said the master.

"And is the Tao in a fire started with lighter fluid?"
The master coughed and shifted his position slightly.

"The lesson is over for today," he said.


A magistrate in Lien-We province had issued a decree that all charcoal fires should be lit from the top of the pile of charcoal. A confused novice asked the master, "Master, is the magistrate within the Tao? Does he determine the spirit of the Tao?"

The master replied, "We are taught that to govern men in accord with nature it is best to be restrained; Restraint makes agreement easy to attain, and easy agreement builds harmonious relationships. This magistrate does not determine the Tao. The Tao knows no top or bottom, no left or right, no front or back. The Tao is everywhere. The Tao is all. You have learned that when you achieve enlightenment, your fires will build themselves. They will also light themselves and top or bottom will have no meaning to you."

"The Tao preceeded heaven and earth, as well as this magistrate."


Hearing a loud noise, the master turned around to see a novice wildly slapping at himself. Rushing to his side, he discovered that flames were on the novice as well as in a circle on the ground surrounding the novice. Beating out the flames and making sure the novice was unhurt, the master picked up the remains of a bottle labeled "Green Napalm. Will not explode." The master understood what had happened. The novice had tried to add more green napalm to a burning fire. The master asked the novice why he had done what the bottle had said not to do.

The novice replied, "Master, I could not see the flame. Am I therefore not enlightened yet?" The master stated, "Even those filled with the Tao cannot see what cannot be seen."

And he threw the bottle away.

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