A long time ago, in ancient China, one day the emperor retired to his chamber to study volumes of diplomatic documents. He found it hard to concentrate, so he summoned his most trusted minister. When he arrived, the minister saw the emperor pacing back and forth, looking irritated.
The emperor said to him, "I want to concentrate on state affairs, but my mind is unstable and restless. When I feel this way, I need to look at something to restore my peace. Have the best artist in the country create a painting that has the power to calm me down. I want the theme of this painting to be True Tranquility."
"As you command, Your Majesty," replied the minister.
A few days later, the minister discovered that there were three artists considered to be the best in China. They were very talented, so they were all brought to the palace. Once they understood what the emperor wanted, they set about painting the picture he wanted.
The Essence Of True Tranquility
When the paintings were finished, the emperor went into the studio with the minister to see them. The first painting he looked at depicted a peaceful lake surrounded by mountains. It was an extremely beautiful scene. The surface of the lake looked perfectly still and conveyed a sense of peace. The emperor smiled, "Very beautiful."
The second painting depicted a winter landscape. It evoked the silence that falls after the snow, a deep silence that went beyond the mere absence of noise because the snow absorbed all sound. Both the minister and the emperor nodded approvingly. "Very effective," said the emperor.
When they reached the third painting they noticed that it depicted a waterfall. "I'm sorry, Your Majesty," said the minister. "It seems this artist did not understand my instructions to paint a scene about serenity. Let me throw this painting away and we can choose from the first two."
When he wanted to get his hands on the painting, the emperor stopped him, "No, wait." After looking at the painting for a moment longer he said to the minister, "This is the painting I need."
"What?! But, Your Majesty, how can this waterfall compare with the other two in depicting peace? I don't understand!" he said puzzled.
"The waterfall is not the most important thing in this painting. Take a closer look," was the emperor's reply.
The minister took a closer look at the painting. He saw that next to the waterfall was a tree, and one of its branches sheltered a nest. A bird was sleeping inside that nest.
"See how the bird is able to relax and rest, even with a deafening stream of water so close to it?!" the Emperor pointed out. "It is in such a profound state of stillness that the outside conditions have no power over it. They cannot irritate or disturb her. This is the essence of True Tranquility!"