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?
Peter Muryo Matthiessen died two days ago. As a Zen teacher he embodied the
tradition of teacher, artist, adventurer/warrior.
He was a renowned and prolific author and Zen teacher. He was modest, well mannered and kind. In the interview linked below he says he did not want to speak or write about Zen very much because words obscured it.
What is there to say about the true boundless life that is right in front of us at every moment?
Here are two links: One to a New York Times magazine article and another to an National Public Radio interview.
Thank You Peter
A student asked Master Joshu for instruction in finding the way.
Joshu said, “East, West, North, South.”
Though Joshu was a great master, he was, of course, completely lost.
When questioned he couldn’t find his way.
His ignorance could fill volumes.
These volumes could be called “A Complete Guide to the Way”.
What a joke that would be: volumes pointing to the finger rather than the moon.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be as clueless as this old master!
East, West, North, South.
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To carry the self forward and illuminate myriad things is delusion.
That myriad things come forth and illuminate the self is awakening.
Those who have great realization of delusion are buddhas……
Eihei Dogen – Genjokoan
To choose this life, your life- isn’t this the greatest act of courage?
What else is there to look for?
To appreciate this very life as the life of realization is to transcend both delusion and enlightenment.
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If only, if only …….. dead.
The way of Zen is genuine and whole hearted.
Do not pretend to know what you don’t.
Do not pretend to be who you are not.
Be one with yourself.
Make your life, your practice, real.
Now step forth with your whole body and soul.
To pursue the way you must abandon self deception and fear.
If only, if only …….. dead.
A famous hockey player said, “You miss one hundred per cent of the shots you don’t take.
“Well,” he said with equanimity, “you see, in my opinion there is no point at all in talking about music. I never talk about music. What reply, then, was I to make to your very able and just remarks? You were perfectly right in all you said. But, you see, I am a musician, not a professor, and I don’t believe that, as regards music, there is the least point in being right. Music does not depend on being right, on having good taste and education and all that.”
“Indeed. Then what does it depend on?”
“On making music, Herr Haller, on making music as well and as much as possible and with all the intensity of which one is capable. That is the point, Monsieur.
Herman Hesse “Steppenwolf”
And Zen practice is just the same.
It is not about knowing anything or going anywhere.
It is about forgetting the self and being the music we will never know called life.
And life is always right here.
Right here is the beginning and end of the song.
It is the place where life can be “played” with all the intensity of which one is capable.