Introduction by Paul Ferrini
Lao Tzu was my first teacher. Coming out of an Atheist upbringing, I could not find God in the churches and synagogues of the west. Nor was I drawn to elaborate rituals of Hinduism, the sparse monasticism of Theravadin Buddhism or the heady metaphysics of Mahayana Buddhism.
I was drawn instead to the wide open spaces of nature and to the poet who understood them. Taoism to me was never a religion, but a state of consciousness and a way of life. Lao Tzu was my teacher from the moment I read the words "The way that can be spoken is not the true way."
He was my teacher because he rejected all outward authority. The God of this teaching was not to be found in scriptures or rituals, but in the hills and streams and in the tidewaters of the heart.
River of Light is the Tao that is written by my teacher's footsteps along the streambeds where we have walked together. It is not an attempt to translate the words that have been attributed to him, so much as an attempt to elucidate the awareness that I have always felt singing to me through those words.
This is my poem to his poem, and his poem to the poetry of my being that lives with him always. There are realms of mercy and forgetfulness here I cannot describe to you. We have been drunk together, looking up at the stars. We have crossed the river by moonlight. Together, we have found the boat that only comes at dawn.
The waters that have carried us are moving in these pages. Now the boat belongs to you. May it take you into the heart of his teaching.
The Mysterious Tao
We listen for it, yet its note can't be heard.
We look intently for it, yet its image can't be seen.
Although it has no beginning,
it leads us back to our original nature.
Although it has no end,
It helps us come to completion.
Oversharpen the knife
Oversharpen the knife
and even a tiny mistake loses your finger.
Keep counting your coins
and a thief will see you.
Take the credit
and you'll get the blame.
Why keep working
when the work is done?
To fill the cup,
stop short of the brim.
Tao is Limitless
Tao is like a limitless black hole.
It is so wide you cannot find the edge of it.
It is so deep you can't find the bottom of it.
Universes spill out from it.
Others swim in its depths.
Try to pierce it and it swallows your knife.
Try to bind it together and it unravels.
It is so bright, you cannot see its brilliance.
It is so humble, you can stand on it
without knowing it's supporting you.
Thirty Spokes Unite
Thirty spokes unite
at the center of the wheel.
Without the empty space at the hub,
the wheel cannot function.
Mud and water combine
to make a clay vessel.
Without the empty space inside,
the vessel is useless.
If you want to make
a functional room,
you need to cut holes in the walls
for windows and doors.
Nothing derives its purpose
Something derives its usefulness
Listen to Paul Ferrini reading from The Great Way of All Beings on Hands of God Cd