Some thoughts on Silo’s Path
Part I. An Introduction
There is a legend from China that says when Lao Tzu (Laozi) felt that the chaos spreading through the kingdom was jeopardizing his mission he halted certain activities, and withdrew to an isolated hermitage in the far Western frontier. At the Western gate a guard by the name of Yinxi asked the master if, before he departed from the kingdom, he would write a summary of his teaching in such a way that they might be useful even in these difficult times when peoples’ minds were disturbed, and their understanding clouded. And so it came about that at the end of his life Lao Tzu sat down and composed for posterity, and for all of us, a short and pithy introduction to his teaching. In most of the versions that have come down to the present day it is wonderfully brief, consisting of only about 5,000 Chinese characters, most commonly divided into 81 very short chapters.
In that way this, and similar tales, try to explain the genesis of the book sometimes known by its author’s name, and sometimes as the Tao Te Ching (Dao de Jing). The word jing might be translated as virtue, characteristics, or power, while famously tao is often translated as the way, the road or the path.
Much more recently toward the end of his extraordinary, and extraordinarily productive life, Silo also left us a wonderful and concise synthesis of his teaching. After writing dozens of books, countless monographs, and communiques, after having given hundreds of seminars, lectures and retreats, thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) of meetings and encounters both formal and informal he gave us a a document that makes Lao Tzu look verbose. This work, which forms the 3rd part of the larger, but still brief, Book of Silo’s Message, consists of a meagre 19 sentences. While the title of that other, older, document might be translated The Path and its Virtue, this one is simply titled The Path.
As you know, Silo invites us to accept neither censorship, nor self-censorship. Heeding that recommendation has given me the courage, if not the justification, to offer some thoughts about how I see this extraordinary, but too often overlooked bequest he has left us. I can’t claim any privilege for my interpretation, other than it is mine and writing it down has helped me give some order to my off again, on again musings about why the author felt that these particular sentences deserved the name of The Path. However, I hope that since you are reading this you will take it as an invitation to think deeply about this text (“to meditate profoundly and without haste”) and to clarify your own interpretation of this gem of a gift.
To be continued.