The sailor and the sea-gulls

There was once a man, a sailor by profession, who was very fond of sea-gulls. Every morning he went into the sea and swam about in their midst, at which times a hundred gulls and more would constantly flock about him.

‘Creatures are not shy of those whom they feel to be in mental and bodily harmony with themselves.’

One day his father said to him: ‘I am told that sea-gulls swim about with you in the water. I wish you would catch one or two for me to make pets of.’

On the following day, the sailor went down to the sea as usual, but lo! the gulls only wheeled about in the air and would not alight.

‘There was disturbance in his mind, accompanied by a change in his outward demeanour; thus the birds became conscious of the fact that he was a human being. How could their instinct be deceived?’

(Lieh-Tzü, with Introduction and Notes by LIONEL GILES)

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