Faith by David Whyte

Faith by David Whyte

In honor of last night’s new moon…



I want to write about faith,
about the way the moon rises
over cold snow, night after night,

faithful even as it fades from fullness,
slowly becoming that last curving and impossible
sliver of light before the final darkness.

But I have no faith myself
I refuse it even the smallest entry.

Let this then, my small poem,
like a new moon, slender and barely open,
be the first prayer that opens me to faith.

— David Whyte
from Where Many Rivers Meet
©2007 Many Rivers Press

An Ancient Path

An Ancient Path

The Buddha’s fourth Noble Truth, after the truth of suffering (#1), the truth of the source of suffering in clinging (#2), and the truth of the cessation of suffering in letting go of that same clinging (#3), is that there is a path of practice by which we can know the first three truths for ourselves. The metaphor of a  path, with its implication of monotonic progress toward a goal, is imperfect. As with any practice, the way never leads entirely forward, and defining and assessing “progress” is approximate at best. But setting aside its limitations, the image of a path can be a vivid and inviting one for those of us interested in freedom.

When the Buddha used the metaphor, he did not say that he had invented the dhamma, the teachings, and he did not claim to be the first to know them. Instead, he said:

It is just as if a person, traveling along a wilderness track, were to see an ancient path … traveled by people of former times. He would follow it. Following it, he would see an ancient city … complete with parks, groves, & ponds, walled, delightful. … In the same way I saw an ancient path … traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones of former times. (SN 12.65)


I saw an ancient path, he said. It was already there. The truth, which is another translation of the Pali word dhamma, isn’t something we make up. It’s something we find, like an overgrown and rarely-used path in the wilderness. That ancient and delightful city is the freedom available in our own minds. 2600 years ago, Siddhartha Gautama found an ancient path and followed it. So can we.