III, 4: Artful condolences
When Lao Tan died, Khin Shih went to condole (with his son), but after crying out three times, he came out. The disciples said to him, 'Were you not a friend of the Master?'
'I was,' he replied, and they said,
'Is it proper then to offer your condolences merely as you have done?'
'It is. At first I thought he was the man of men, and now I do not think so. When I entered a little ago and expressed my condolences, there were the old men wailing as if they had lost a son, and the young men wailing as if they had lost their mother. In his attracting and uniting them to himself in such a way there must have been that which made them involuntarily express their words (of condolence), and involuntarily wail, as they were doing. And this was a hiding from himself of his Heaven (-nature), and an excessive indulgence of his (human) feelings; – a forgetting of what he had received (in being born); what the ancients called the punishment due to neglecting the Heaven (-nature). When the Master came, it was at the proper time; when he went away, it was the simple sequence (of his coming). Quiet acquiescence in what happens at its proper time, and quietly submitting (to its ceasing) afford no occasion for grief or for joy. The ancients described (death) as the loosening of the cord on which God suspended (the life). What we can point to are the faggots that have been consumed; but the fire is transmitted (elsewhere), and we know not that it is over and ended.
◑ Being born may turn into a long-term punishment if we go on to neglect our deep inner sides, our Heaven-nature. It can be avoided.Chuang Tzu Based on James Legge's Translation - The Gold Scales
Chuang Tse here uses a story about Lao Tzu's funeral to warn against cults of personality. Put principle above personality, the twelve step programs advise. Whether or not Lao Tze ever put his personality above his principles, we do not know (we don't even know if he actually existed), Chuang Tse is saying that if Lao Tse ever had put his person in the limelight, he would have betrayed his own teachings and would not have been worthy of his disciples. But a cult requires more than a willing leader, it also requires willing followers; and would be followers have an obligation equal to that of the would be leader to stop a nascent cult in its tracks. In fact, cult leaders are more often created by their followers than by their own egos and ambitions. The evolution of leadership and followership is a give and take process where the leader is elevated by his followers until the point where, disoriented by his success, he goes out of control.
Later in Chinese history, Lao Tse would be regarded as a god and the Tao Te Ching as scripture. I have to admit that i also sort of regard the Tao Te Ching as scripture; but it is a private scripture, for my own moral edification, and not a text for me to preach from. Nor is its power independent of its truth.