03. 17. 2009. 10:52

A Tao of One’s Own I. (excerpt)

István Vörös

"The good is now closed,
flooded by the Danube.
A dragon sails across it,
an ant makes its way on a barge.
Yet whether by water
or by road, neither of them knows.
The water wants only the good. And now
wants it very much."

Part One
Barring of the Path
 
1.
Do not take the path anywhere,
let the path come to you,
name nothing by its name.
That which has no name: is
below in the ground. That which had
a name: is below in the ground.
That which has no verb: happens below
in the ground. That which has a verb:
does not happen.
That which does not happen is a secret.
The gates of contemplation swing open,
the gates of being close.
The gates of depth swing open,
the gates of height close shut.
Miraculous,
that of the world
we always know the same.
 
 
2.
Only what is beautiful is beautiful,
the ugly is not within it, nor is it
without; they do not speak
of each other.
Nor do they speak to each other.
 
Only what is good is good,
evil is not within it, nor is it
without; they do not speak
of each other.
Nor do they speak to each other.
 
Non-existence does not beget existence,
and existence only passes away,
of non-existence it knows nothing.
What is heavy is not light, and
is not the multiplicity of lightness.
When the gates of depth swing open,
the gates of height close shut.
Close shut, and then
are walled up. Depth
immured by height.
Height immured by depth,
and death swallowed into the whole.
 
Whoever teaches shall forget
as the disciples know well.
The disciples before the teaching
set off upon the path.
 
A true artist creates
no work of art,
but the true reader reads.
Looks up from the book towards the white wall.
 
Between the two is non-existence:
a  vessel filled with snow.
 
 
3.
If you do not seek progress,
in the end you shall leave the world transformed.
If you do not seek the path,
the old shall be renewed
and you shall be renewed.
If no one seeks, there shall be
silence, like that of a summer
dawn in the city,
when each traffic light
suddenly turns to red.
 
At such times the saint is asleep,
the wise man rolls over in his sleep,
the sage mutters two words,
the shrewd rise and
look around; the idiot
walks along the street,
delighting in the silence.
 
Know not what happens
elsewhere. Do not say
what has happened to you.
Do not put things in order:
so that order will be.
 
4.
The path-way is closed:
flooded by the Danube.
Across it floats a glider,
an ant makes its way on a leaf.
But whether by water
or by road, none of them knows.
The path is deeper and deeper,
reaching to the knee, reaching to the waist,
all life springs from it
and all death to it returns.
The current sweeps along small houses,
the altars of temples,
covers dust with light.
The path is more ancient than
the path-building. The path-building
older than the roadway.
And the roadway is older
than the road’s soul
which is itself the creator, the
youngest of all.
 
 
5.
The sky is begotten of fancy,
the earth a piece of stone.
The multiplicity of things
a finger puppet on one hand
or on the other.
The saint is begotten of fancy,
the saint a piece of stone.
The multiplicity of things
a finger puppet on one hand
or on the other.
 
Between the earth and the sky,
the puppet theatre.
Behind the curtains, no stage
            scenery,
no hands in the puppets.
The curtain rises,
but there shall be no presentation,
at the end hands applaud,
            but there shall be no encore.
The public sits in the back,
the spectators do not see,
those who see avert their eyes,
who shall grant importance
            to the whole?
 
 
6.
There is no spirit in the valley,
and no lord of the mountain,
here should be a gate,
so that it will never open,
and in opposition to eternal life,
garments woven from minutes.
 
7.
The sky is eternal. The earth is nearly so.
They do not know they were born,
for they were not watching,
vacant, like the sky unobserved,
and the earth uninhabited,
all of them inherited a trace of non-being.
 
Amongst us, who is empty of his own will,
leans away from himself – and thus finds another,
and with his own self, unreplenishable,
there is no other place
where until now his self would be,
until it returns to the inner infinitude.
 
The inhabited sky and the observed earth are eternal.
A holy man lives there, a holy man observes,
the void is close to humans.
The sky is begotten of fancy,
but not the saint’s fancy
but that of the rest of men.
Nothing occurs to the holy man.
All of the earth, all of the sky.
Great infinitudes,
but only a few kilos if measured.
 
8.
The good is now closed,
flooded by the Danube.
A dragon sails across it,
an ant makes its way on a barge.
Yet whether by water
or by road, neither of them knows.
The water wants only the good. And now
wants it very much.
The water flows to the mountains,
where not even the pilgrims go,
where not even rats dare to go.
 
The earth is good, for it is inhabited.
The heart is good, for it is inhabited.
Friendship is good, for it needs two.
Talk is good, for it needs two.
The end comes before the beginning,
and whatever you embark upon,
it shall carry you forward like a roller-coaster.
The end is good, for it is inhabited.
The beginning is good, for it needs two.
 
If the good overflows,
the sandbags are cast down from the barricade,
and the dam-boils collect water in the reliquaries.
 
9.
You should take leave of a feast
at precisely the best moment,
my wife’s grandmother used to say.
She died at the age of eighty-seven.
Jesus was resurrected on the third day;
until then non-existence did not
cloud over him, but the world,
and he was fine for three days,
the ozone hole above Jerusalem,
the cosmic void flooding in,
false money lying on every corner, and whoever
            bent down to pick it up
got a backache;
whoever stepped over it, began to limp;
whoever looked into the new light
became nearsighted; whoever covered
his eyes, wept; whoever saw them
laughed hysterically.
It would have been better not
to wish so intensely for redemption,
said Caiaphas, and he desired
to abandon the Jewish faith.
It would have been better not
to wish so intensely for truth,
said Pontius Pilate, who desired
to take up the Jewish faith.
The disciples lied and were afraid.
It would have been better for them
not to have met with their master.
 
When everyone was well sated with ichor
the three days had passed.
 
10.
We have as many selves as parts of our bodies.
The stomach-I is gluttonous, the lung-
I is ascetic, the brain-I tries
to order them around,
in one ear-I
and out the other; no longer a voice
now but a draught of air,
rattling along the respiratory-tracks,
the few switching-stations, traveling along the
throat-I and the tongue-I.
Instead of all of them a
sulking little fatso sees:
the heart adores the souls
assembled around it. The gates of heaven open up
every year and from the vast crowd
only one is admitted.
 
Cats have nine lives,
but people have 77.
 
As fewer remain
in the body,
even fewer can fit in.
 
To acquire and not retain,
to know and to interpret,
to interpret and immediately pass on,
to teach and to forget,
to forget and to obtain.
 
11.
The inside of the chocolate St. Nicholas is empty.
What had been there expelled
by the vacuum pump.
The blocks of houses like decayed
teeth, like the two-kilogram
loaf gnawed through by mice.
Like the macaroni too, or the
Emmenthal cheese: merely enclosing
its own lack in a circle,
and held just by that,
as the pillar holds the bridge.
But this pillar points inside.
That which is may merely be,
for it is the friend of the non-existing,
our being in advance of death,
Monday draws near to Sunday,
spring probes through summer’s pocket.
 
12.
The rumbling of the motor,
the hue of the windscreen,
the scent of the driver’s seat
make one deaf, blind and scentless.
In the rushing car
your movements slow down,
then you don’t dare to park
on the street next to it,
for the rushing speed shows on it,
and the slowness shows on you.
 
The wise man does not see with his eyes,
does not drive with the steering wheel,
takes his foot off the gas,
takes his foot off the brake.
 
 
13.
Success is a great disgrace,
defeat a small ignominy.
The honours we gain from without
are like an injection,
medicine intended for others,
given to us.
If we are liberated, it turns out
that we were slaves,
if thrown into slavery,
we sleep through it.
Great success is a disgrace,
minor failure is a disgrace.
 
Medicine intended for another
will be of no use if given to me,
poison intended as medicine
does not harm if it is not too concentrated.
The lie of self-love
before the mirror, however
the mirror too is lying,
everyone is uglier
than it would seem,
but more beautiful
than they would think themselves to be.
Who believes himself believes only that;
who believes, is his own self.
 
For that reason, do not trust your affairs
to the credulous, nor the world
to the believer, and nothing
to the sceptic; do not trust in self-confidence,
do not encourage the uncertain.
 
 
14. 
If I shut my eyes,
I see what cannot be seen,
but only at a glance.
If my hearing fails,
I hear what cannot be heard,
but only through eavesdropping.
If I withdraw my hand,
I touch what cannot be touched,
but only if I go away from myself.
These three experiences unobtained
speak of the One,
above which no light blows,
below which no silence walks,
nothing is in its name’s place,
not even one star swaying above.
 
Its form: a nameless name.
Its motif: the void untravelled.
Its content: one branch behind the fence.
If it arrives, it is not in front,
if it goes, not backwards,
if it alights, not into a cave,
if it steps, it has no leg.
Who goes along the path
existing now, does not proceed,
for the path leads from the past
towards comprehension,
from comprehension it leads
to the past.
Who does not turn back
shall never move ahead.
 
 
15. 
In their own age, the old masters
withdrew behind their secrets,
we however know more and more about them.
Boldly we depict their outlines,
still we do not expose them:
they were cautious,
like a pedestrian on a winter sidewalk,
circumspect,
like someone crossing a four-lane path,
they look all around,
like someone arriving on a visit,
are absorbed into things,
like the glow of a flashlight,
waiting to be formed,
like freshly mixed concrete,
open,
like a city in ruins,
we do not know their intent,
as we hardly know the intent of the swollen Danube.
 
Who seeks counsel from chaos
shall be enlightened.
Who steps into the current of tranquility
cannot step twice into the same waters.
 
Those who know the path across the water
will rather cross by the bridge.
Those who know the weight of deeds
shall not dissipate their old age.
 
 
16. 
Cast every thought from your head,
and harvest tranquility.
Things of themselves know what they have to do.
Plunge into their state of being.
 
Let what there is gain increase,
its shadow inclines to the beginning,
the beginning returns across the shadow,
life makes allowances for permanence.
Give way at times to permanence,
permanence is the intention of the incidental,
the beginning doesn’t want the end,
the end speaks with the middle
and permanence revolving like a wheel,
permanence smashes its axis.
 
The holy man, the wise man, the madman
create a path, but do not speak if it is finished.
Their enlightened consciousness, not knowing knowledge,
seeks the path, not impermanence,
who walks upon it goes backwards.
In the heavens the paths are various.
 
 
17. 
At the head of the advance of the hinds
there is always one more experienced,
who knows the forest path.
At the head of the orchestra always stands
the conductor, who knows the path
between the sounds, who may not speak,
but who points the way with his baton.
Someone may be taken into the service
of the accord between human beings,
but he must be mute.
 
When I was a child I was certain
the conductor’s baton would at least emit
a small sound. Yet from it comes silence.
That music in which there is no silence
can only be heard. That strength
wishing to come into force
does not see it is only on loan.
That loan that we wish to regain
is lost.
 
The holy man, the wise man, the madman
never ask for anything on loan, for power
and goodness stick to their hands,
chaos, however, must be squeezed back
like the pollen of the ragweed.
 
 
18.
When the cobblestone path with concrete is overlaid,
truth then runs all along its way.
When the minister steps out of the university,
everyone will have forgot their ABC.
If your father and your son laugh at you out loud,
it is fertile soil for duty-bound love.
And when the needed money shall no longer be,
on heaven’s lonely path we shall proceed. 
 
(To be continued)
 
Translated by Ottilie Mulzet

Tags: István Vörös