Yen Hui, the favorite disciple of Confucius, came to take leave of his Master.
"Tell me," said Yen Hui, "what is fasting of the heart?"
Confucius replied. "The goal of fasting is inner unity. This means
hearing, but not with the ear; hearing, but not with the understanding;
hearing with the spirit, with your whole being. The hearing that is
only in the ears is one thing. The hearing of the understanding is
another. But the hearing of the spirit is not limited to any one
faculty, to the ear, or to the mind. Hence it demands the emptiness of
all the faculties. And when the faculties are empty, then the whole
being listens. There is then a direct grasp of what is right there
before you that can never be heard with the ear or understood with the
mind. Fasting of the heart empties the faculties, frees you from
limitation and from preoccupation. Fasting of the heart begets unity
"I see," said Yen Hui. "What was standing in my way was my own
self-awareness. If I can begin this fasting of the heart,
self-awareness will vanish. Then I will be free from limitation and
preoccupation! Is that what you mean?"
"Yes," said Confucius, "that's it! If you can do this, you will be
able to go among men in their world without upsetting them. You will
not enter into conflict with their ideal image of themselves. If they
will listen, sing them a song. If not, keep silent. Don't try to
break down their door. Don't try out new medicines on them. Just be
there among them, because there is nothing else for you to be but one
of them. Then you may have success!