Too Many Paths
One of Yang Zi’s neighbours, who lost a sheep, sent all his men out to find it, and asked Yang Zi’s servant to join in the search.
“What!” exclaimed Yang Zi. “Do you need all those men to find one sheep?”
“There are so many paths it may have taken,” the neighbor explained. When his servant returned, Yang Zi asked him: “Well, did you find the sheep?”
He answered that they had not. Then Yang Zi asked how they had failed to find it.
“There are too many paths,” replied the servant. “One path leads to another, and we didn’t know which to take, so we had had to come back.”
At that Yang Zi looked very thoughtful. He was silent for a long time, and did not smile all day.
His pupils were surprised.
“A sheep is a trifle,” they said, “and this wasn’t even yours. Why should you stop talking and smiling?”
Yang Zi did not answer, and his pupils were puzzled. One of them, Mengsheng Yang, went out to describe what had happened to Xindou Zi.
“When there are too many paths,” said Xindou Zi, “a man cannot find his sheep. When a student has too many interests, he fritters away his time. The source of all knowledge is one, but the branches of learning are many. Only by returning to the primal truth can a man avoid losing his way. You are Yang Zi’s pupil and study from him, yet you seem to have failed completely to understand him.”