Chapter 1: The Toast Is Burned
He who rules men lives in confusion;
he who is ruled by men lives in sorrow.
Yao therefore desired
neither to influence others
nor be influenced by them.
The way to get clear of confusion and free of sorrow
is to live with Tao in the land of the void.
If a man is crossing a river
and an empty boat collides with his own skiff,
even though he be a bad-tempered man
he will not become very angry.
But if he sees a man in the boat,
he will shout to him to steer clear.
And if the shout is not heard he will shout
again and yet again, and begin cursing -
and all because there is somebody in that boat.
Yet if the boat were empty,
he would not be shouting,
and he would not be angry.
If you can empty your own boat
crossing the river of the world,
no one will oppose you,
no one will seek to harm you.
The straight tree is the first to be cut down,
the spring of clear water is the first to be drained dry.
If you wish to improve your wisdom
and shame the ignorant,
to cultivate your character and outshine others,
a light will shine around you
as if you had swallowed the sun and the moon -
and you will not avoid calamity.
A wise man has said:
“He who is content with himself
has done worthless work.
Achievement is the beginning of failure,
fame is the beginning of disgrace.”
Who can free himself of achievement and fame
then descend and be lost
amid the masses of men?
He will flow like Tao, unseen,
he will go about like life itself
with no name and no home.
Simple is he, without distinction.
To all appearances he is a fool.
His steps leave no trace. He has no power.
He achieves nothing, he has no reputation.
Since he judges no one,
no one judges him.
Such is the perfect man -
his boat is empty.
You have come to me. You have taken a dangerous step. It is a risk because near me you can be lost forever. To come closer will mean death and cannot mean anything else. I am just like an abyss. Come closer to me and you will fall into me. And for this, the invitation has been given to you. You have heard it and you have come.
Be aware that through me you are not going to gain anything. Through me you can only lose all - because unless you are lost, the divine cannot happen; unless you disappear totally, the real cannot arise. You are the barrier.
And you are so much, so stubbornly much, you are so filled with yourself that nothing can penetrate you. Your doors are closed. When you disappear, when you are not, the doors open. Then you become just like the vast, infinite sky.
That is your nature. That is Tao.
Before I enter into Chuang Tzu’s beautiful parable of The Empty Boat, I would like to tell you one other story, because that will set the trend for this meditation camp which you are entering.
I have heard.