There was once a student who spent much of his time searching for a genuine Sifu (a learned master) so that he could penetrate into the deeper meaning of life.
His search was not in vain. He found one.
‘O Sifu, my efforts are not in vain after all. Teach me, teach me the essence of human life,’ the student pleaded with the Sifu.
‘My son, you came so far, and wandered so wide, surely your heart must be sincere in search of knowledge,’ the Sifu said:
‘Yes, yes, Sifu. Now teach me something about life,’ the student begged.
‘Listen carefully, my son. Listen to what I have to say,’ the Sifu said.
‘I’m listening, I’m listening,’ the student replied eagerly.
‘He who knows and knows that he knows is a teacher, seek him.
He who knows and knows that he knows not, he is a student, teach him.
He who knows and knows not that he knows, he is asleep, wake him.
He who knows not and knows that he knows not, he is a novice, lead him.
He who knows not and knows not that he knows not, he is a child, guide him.’
‘Wow, Sifu. This is really deep. Know, don’t know, know not, not know. But so sorry Sifu, I can’t really understand what you are saying.’
The Sifu then said, ‘My son, you don’t have to know these now. You just have to memorise for now.’
The student was elated, and said, ‘After that I will be able to understand? After that my mind will be clear as the sky? After that my life will be more meaningful than it is now?’
The Sifu patted the student’s back, and said, ‘After that my son, you will be as confused I am.’
From ‘Islam and the Wisdoms of Asian Religions’ By Yamin Cheng