John Daido Loori

Winged Waves photo Still Point photo Water of Ten Directions photo Water Seeing Water photo

Some thoughts about John Daido Looriís photographs

As Daido Loori explains below, these photographs come from the waters of the Adirondack Mountains in upstate NewYork. His pictures reveal qualities of those waters, but also show archetypal activities of water that may be seen in waters all over our Earth. When one starts paying attention to water, there are subtle characteristics, activities, patterns, similarities and differences to be perceived. For example, the slightly acidic, tannin-rich waters of many northern streams and ponds are quite different in movement, feel, smell, reflection and other qualities than, say, the sandy kettle ponds of Cape Cod, or the salty estuaries of North Carolina.

Have you observed water, compared the qualities of water in different streams? Next time you have an opportunity, still yourself and open your perception to the activity of moving water. What do you experience? Notice in Daido Looriís photograph, "Winged Waves", how reflections show patterns of vibrations revealing inner harmonic activities, and how light is intensified and focused into bright lines and dark holes. What produces these patterns? From where do the ripples, turbulence and vibrations arise in "Water of Ten Directions"? Do these activities arise from the very deepest nature of water? Would water in a city park or a wild mountain brook also show these patterns? Does water - like fire when we stare meditatively into it - reveal the forces of spirit active within? Look closely, discern the differences and similarities of activity, pay attention.

- Tim Scherbatskoy, SENSRI

Artistís Statement

These photographs from the current exhibition The Tao of Water are a visual reflection on various ways of seeing water. They are an attempt to go beyond appearances, to capture the direct experience of water in its myriad manifestations.

Photographed over a period of two years among the rivers and streams around Raquette Lake in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, The Tao of Water explores the spirit and multi-faceted nature of water. Zen Master Dogen said Water is neither strong nor weak, neither wet nor dry, neither moving nor still, neither cold nor hot, neither being nor nonbeing, neither delusion nor enlightenment.

Physically, water is made up of two odorless and tasteless gases that, when brought together, form H2O. But water is not oxygen, and it is not hydrogen. It is what D.H. Lawrence called the third thing. The third thing is not strong or weak, wet or dry, moving or still, cold or hot, being or nonbeing, delusion or enlightenment.

Then what is the hidden universe of water?
What is the Way - the Tao - of water? What is its reality?

John Daido Loori is a first generation American Zen Master, and the Abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery in the Catskill Mountains of New York, where he integrates his background as an artist and naturalist with his spiritual teachings. He maintains a particular interest in using artistic expression as a way to communicate the teachings of Zen, continuing the spirit of the timeless aesthetic of the Artless Arts of Zen.

John Daido Loori began his work in photography at an early age and went on to study extensively with photographer Minor White. He has conducted photography workshops across the United States, and exhibited in 64 one-person shows and 125 groups shows, both in the United States and abroad.

Loori lectures extensively on photography and the creative process at art centers, museums, and universities. He is the author of 20 books, Three of which are collections of his photographs. Many of his books have been translated into French, German, Spanish, Polish and Hebrew. Looriís photography has been published in books, magazines and leading photography journals such as Aperture and Time-Life Photography. He has directed, filmed or produced ten documentary works and several art videos that interweave poetry, music and visual imagery. His recent Mountains and Rivers video was winner of the Gold Award at the WorldFest Charleston International Film Festival, and Honorable Mention at the Columbus International Film and Video Festival.

Looriís most recent works are the book The Way of Mountains and Rivers (which includes The Tao of Water) and the film "The Way of Water" (release date summer 2008), both based on Looriís translation and commentaires on 13th-century Zen Master Dogenís Mountains and Rivers sutra. Through prose, poetry and fine art photographs, The Way of Mountains and Rivers develops a 21st century thesis for an environmental consciousness that interweaves modern science and ecology, within a compelling moral and ethical paradigm. The film follows the same course as the book, with the film merging visual images, natural sounds and music into an expression of the voice of these mountains and rivers themselves.

- John Daido Loori, Zen Mountain Monastery

For further information and to see more photographs, please visit