The Master of the Hidden Storehouse

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The Master of the Hidden Storehouse is a very easily comprehended work attributed to Keng Sang-tzu, a disciple of the old scholar, and is a classical treatment of the taoist philosophy with emphasis on leadership and governance. I found this little gem buried in the back half of a book called Thunder in the sky, an english language translation by Thomas Cleary which includes two texts: Master of Demon Valley, and Master of the Hidden Storehouse. The book is published by Shambhala, isbn# 1-57062-660-x (in case anyone gets bored with the pace that I lay it out on this thread and wants to get a copy for themselves).


After reading this book, I must conclude that it is essential reading for anyone who wishes to be effective in a leadership role from the point of presiding over a nation, a state, a province, a villiage, a neighborhood, a house, or themselves. The lack of understanding of the way when it comes to governance in our world's leaders is shocking, but not unexpected, as the persons most likely to seek public office are, by their natures, the ones least likely to be competant to fill these roles.


By way of overview, there are nine segments in this text: Preserving the way intact, Applying the way, The way of government, The way of leadership, The way of administrators, The way of the wise, The way of education, The way of agriculture, and The way of war. Get your ink and brushes ready: you will want a copy of this text preserved for future generations.

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Preserving the way intact


The Master of the Hidden Storehouse lived for three years on the south face of Feather Mountain, during which time there was no sickness among the local folk, and the grain crops ripened regularly. The people privately said to one another, "When the Master of the Hidden storehouse first came, we thought him strange. Now we find our yearly income to be more than enough even though our daily income seems insufficient; Could it be that he is a sage? Why don't we pray to him, and make a shrine to propriate him?"

When the Master of the Hidden Storehouse heard about this, he appeared uneasy. A disciple tried to induce him to go along, but the Master said, "I have heard that people of ultimate attainment live independently in humble cottages, while ordainary people, in frantic madness, do not know where to go. Now the people of Feather Mountain are talking among themselves about propriating me by ceremony - am I the man to be their target? This is why I am uneasy, considering the words of Lao Tzu."

The disciple said, "I disagree. A small pond has no room for a huge fish to swim around in, but a mud puppy can sport freely in it, a small hill has no place for enormous beasts to hide, but it is good for little foxes. Moreover, since the time of the ancient kings Yao and Shun it has been an established practice to honor the wise and employ the able, to invite the good and take to the beneficial, so why should the folk of Feather Mountain not do likewise? You should listen to them, and let them do what they propose."

The Master of the Hidden Storehouse said, "Oh come now! Were Yao and Shun in the know? When a huge beast strays far from the the mountains, nets and snares trap it, when a giant fish is beached, insects torment it. Therefore the abodes of birds and beasts should be in high places, and the abodes of turtles and fish should be in deep places. Now, when people who would keep their bodies and lives intact conceal themselves, they cannot be too deeply hidden or too remote."

"I tell you, the basis for great disorder has its roots in the time of Yao and Shun, and its aftermath will remain even after a thousand generations. After a thousand generations there will surely be people eating each other."

Now before the Master of the Hidden Storehouse had even finished speaking, a certain earl in his audience became uneasy, kneeling at his seat, he said, "I am getting old, how can I put aside my business, to put what you say into practice?"

The Master of the Hidden Storehouse said, "Keep your physical body intact, embrace your life, don't let your thought and rumination work frantically: if you live out your years this way, you may thereby be able to reach what I am talking about."

"But even so, my ability is slight, insufficient to teach you. Why don't you go south and call on my teacher Lao-tzu?"

Once the Master of the Hidden Storehouse has sent the earl away, without making an explanation to the folk of Feather Mountain he made himself like a dragon in the world.


The nature of water is inclined to clarity, but when soil muddies it, water cannot be clear. It is the nature of man to desire longevity, but when things confuse human nature, people cannot live long.

Things are means of nurturing life, but many deluded people today use their lives to nurture things. Thus they do not know their relative importance.

Therefore, in matters of sound, color, and flavor, sages take what is beneficial for life and reject what is harmful to life. This is the way to preserve life intact.

If ten thousand people shoot in concert at a single target, no target will not be hit; when the disturbance of ten thousand things erode a single life, no life will not be injured.

Therefore the way sages govern myriad things is to keep their own nature intact. When nature is intact, then the spirit is intact. People in whom the spirit is intact can succeed without cognition and hit the mark without planning. Their spiritual illumination is all encompassing; their will stabilizes the universe; their virtue is as if heaven sent. They may rise to become emperors, but that does not make them haughty; they may be lowly commoners; but that does not make them ignorant. These are people who keep the way intact.

When the mind is even and straightforward, and not seduced by external things, that is called purity. If purity can be sustained for a long time, it becomes clarity. If clarity can be sustained for a long time, it becomes openness. When the mind is open, the Way abides there intact.


When one of the associates of Lao-tzu passed away, the Master of the Hidden Storehouse mourned him. His apprentice said, "Everyone in the world dies - why do you mourn him?"

The Master replied, "Everyone in the world mourns; how can I not mourn?"

The apprentice said, "But mourners grieve, whereas you have never sorrowed; what about that?"

The Master responded, "I have no pleasure or happiness with anyone in the world - what would bring on sorrow?"

"Remove the solid, and there is liquid. Remove the liquid, and there is gas. Remove the gas, and there is emptiness; remove the emptiness, and there is the Way. Emptiness is the substance of the Way, tranquility is the ground of the Way; reason is the net of the way; conciousness is the eye of the Way."

"The Way is the means of preserving the spirit. Virtue is the means of broadening capacity. Etiquette is the means of equalizing manners. Things are the means of supporting the body.

"In something that should be white, blackness is considered pollution. In something that should be black, whiteness is considered pollution. So how do we know what in the world is truely pure or polluted? For this reason, I do not focus solely on the purity or pollution of things.

"Those whose sight is dim mistake yellow for red and blue for gray. Now how do we know that what we call black and white would not be considered red and yellow by the perceptive? And how do we know what in the world are true colors? For this reason, I do not get lost in the colors of things."

"Those whose fondness for money is extreme do not see anything else as likable; those whose fondness for horses is extreme do not see see anything else as likeable; those whose fondness for books is extreme do not see anything else as likeable. So how do we know what in the world is likeable or detestable? For this reason I do not see anything to be attached to. Nothing can mix me up!"


The ruler of the state of Ch'en sent out one of his grandees on an official visit to the state of Lu. One of the aristocrats of Lu said to him privately, "We have a sage in our state - do you know of him?"

The grandee of Ch'en inquired, "What actually shows that he is a sage?"

The aristocrat of Lu replied, "He is able to to still his mind and yet use his body."

The grandee of Ch'en said, "Although my humble state is small, we also have a sage, but he is different from the one that you mention."

The Aristocrat of Lu asked, "who is that sage?"

The grandee of Ch'en answered, "Someone named the Master of the Hidden Storehouse, who is foremost of those who have attained the Way of Lao-tzu. He can see with his ears and hear with his eyes."

When Lord Ting of Lu heard about this, he considered the Master unusual. He had the aforementioned aristocrat return to visit Ch'en and invite the Master of the Hidden Storehouse to the state of Lu, where he would be treated with the highest honor.

When the Master arrived at the court of Lu, he was recieved in the Lord's private quarters. The Lord of Lu questioned him in a humble manner, and the Master explained, "I can see and hear without using my eyes and ears, I cannot exchange the functions of eye and ear. Your informant was exaggerating."

The Lord of Lu exclaimed, "Who is like you? I am even more amazed. What is your Way? I really want to hear about it."

The Master of the Hidden Storehouse said, "My body is merged with mind, my mind is merged with energy, my energy is merged with spirit, my spirit is merged with nothingness. If there is the smallest object or the slightest sound, no matter how far away they are; they are as close as the space between my eyebrows and eyelashes. Whatever comes to me, I know it completely. And yet I do not know if this is sensed by my senses or limbs, or if it is known by my internal organs or concious thought - apparently it is just spontaneous knowing."

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Very happy to see this here!   I just obtained Thunder in the Sky and am really enjoying it!

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