Autumn Floods

The autumn floods had come.  Thousands of wild torrents poured furiously into the Yellow River.  It surged and flooded its banks until, looking across, you could not tell an ox from a horse on the other side.  Then the River God laughed, delighted to think that ll the beauty in the world had fallen into his keeping.  So downstream he swung, until he came to the ocean.  There he looked out over the waves, toward the empty horizon in the east and his face fell.  Gazing out at the far horizon he came to his senses and murmured to the Ocean God: “Well, the proverb is right.  He who has go timslef a hundred ideas thinks he knows more than anybody else.  Such a one am I.  Only now do I see what they mean by EXPANSE!”



The Ocean God replied:

“Can you talk about the sea

To a frog in a well?

Can you talk about ice

To dragonflies?

Can you talk about he way of Life

To a doctor of philosophy?


“Of all the waters in the world

The Ocean is greatest.

All the rivers pour into it

Day and night;


It is never filled.

It gives back its waters

Day and night;


It is never emptied.

In dry season

It is not lowered.

In floodtime

It does not rise.

Greater than all other waters!

There is no measure to tell

How much greater!

But am I proud of it?

What am I under heaven?

What am I without Yang and Yin?

Compared with the sky

I am a little rock,

A scrub oak

On the mountainside:

Shall I act as if I were something?


Of all the beings that exist (and there are millions), man is only one.  Among the millions of men that live on earth, the civilized people that live by farming are only a small proportion.  Smaller still the number of those who having office or fortune, travel by carriage or by boat.  And of all these, one man in his carriage is nothing more than the tip of a hair on a horse’s flank.  Why, then, all the fuss about great men and great offices?  Why all the disputations of scholars? Why all the wrangling of politicians?


There are no fixed limits

Time does not stand still.

Nothing endures,

Nothing is final.

You cannot lay hold

OF the end or the beginning.

He who is wise nees near and far

As the same,

Does not despise the small

Or value the great;

Where all the standards differ

How can you compare?

With one glane

He takes in past and present,

Without sorrow for the pas

Or impatience with the present.

All is in movement.

He has experience

Of fullness and emptiness.

He does not rejoice in success

Or lament in failure

The game is never ocer

Birth and death are even

The terms are not final.


~Thomas Merton; The Way of Chuang Tzu

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