Mountains and waters right now are the actualization of the ancient Buddha way. Each, abiding in its phenomenal expression, realizes completeness. Because mountains and waters have been active since before the Empty Eon, they are alive at this moment. Because they have been the self since before form arose they are emancipation realization.
Because mountains are high and broad, the way of riding the clouds is always reached in the mountains; the inconceivable power of soaring in the wind comes freely from the mountains.
Eihei Dogen Zenji
These Sierra mountains
Are not the true mountains
Beneath these untrue mountains are the rivers of delusion
Which, by the way, are just fine for traveling home
A clean patch of ground after a rain
An ancient pine half-covered with moss
Such things appear before our eyes
But what we do with them isn’t the same
This poem was written by Stonehouse (Shan Shi). In the 13th century he was a Zen teacher and then a hermit for 40 years.
Now what should we do with this poem?
Zen teacher Ummon tell us that even a good thing is not as good as nothing.
It would be very foolish of me to add anything to that luminous instruction.
A person can be realized without knowing it
A person can be happy without knowing it
A person can be free without knowing it
A person can be her true self without knowing it
Therefore the traveler of the way allows life and death to pass
without knowledge or grasping for meaning
It is in this way that she reaches the deep knowledge of not knowing
And rides the wind of time
Long ago, there was a monk in Meditation Master Hōgen’s monastic community named Gensoku. He was a subordinate under the Temple’s administrative director.
Master Hōgen asked him how long have you been here.
Gensoku replied, “Why, I’ve been in the community for three
The Master asked, “As you are still a junior monk, why have
you never asked me about the Buddha Dharma?”
Gensoku replied, “I will not lie to Your Reverence. Previously, when I was
with Meditation Master Seihō, I fully reached the place of joyful ease in the
The Master said, “And what was said that gained you entry to
Gensoku said, “I once asked Seihō what the True Self of a
novice is”, and Seihō replied, “The children of fire are fire.”
Hōgen responded, “Nicely put by Seihō. But I’m afraid you may not have understood it. Were the Buddha Dharma like that, it is unlikely that It would have continued on, being transmitted down to the present day.”
Gensoku was so distressed at this that he left the monastery.
While on the road, he thought to himself, “In this country the Master
is known as a fine and learned monastic teacher and as a great
spiritual leader and guide for five hundred monks. Since he has chided
me for having gone wrong, he must undoubtedly have a point.” So, he
returned to Master Hogen, respectfully bowed in apology, and said,
“What is the True Self of a novice?”
The Master replied, “The children of fire are fire.”
Upon hearing these words, Gensoku awoke fully to the
Eihei Dogen The Shobogennzo
I should like to add a caution to this wonderful story:
If you think Master Hogen finally revealed the truth to novice Gensoku you have been misled and fallen for Hogen’s treachery. If “the children of fire are fire” were the truth of the way, what a shallow path it would be! The Dharma would have died out a long time ago.
The truth is the children of fire are fire.
Now how do you see this?
Early Evening Algebra
The madwoman went marking X’s
With a piece of school chalk
On the backs of unsuspecting
Hand-holding, homebound couples.
It was winter. It was dark already.
One could not see her face
Bundled up as she was and furtive.
She went as if wind-swept, as if crow-winged.
The chalk must have been given to her by a child.
One kept looking for him in the crowd,
Expecting him to be very pale, very serious,
With a chip of black slate in his pocket.-Charles Simic
Simic, the great poet, has taken us on a mysterious journey.
Like a great magician the mind becomes anything – a piece of chalk, winter dark, a child carrying a book in an unknown place.
The “ordinary mind” not so ordinary is it?