On The Way: The Daily Zen Journal

February 10, 2007

Only Buddha and Buddha

Dogen (1200-1253)

An ancient Buddha said, “The mountains, rivers and earth are born at the same moment with each person. All buddhas of the three worlds are practicing together with each person.”

If we look at the mountains, rivers, and earth when a person is born, his birth does not seem to be bringing forth additional mountains, rivers, and earth on top of the existing ones. Yet the ancient buddha’s word cannot be mistaken. How should we understand this? Even if you do not understand it, you should not ignore it. So, be determined to understand it. Listen until you understand.

Is there anyone who knows what his birth in its beginning or end is like? No one knows either birth’s end or its beginning; nevertheless everyone is born. Similarly, no one knows the extremities of the mountains, rivers, and earth, but all see this place and walk here. Do not think with regret that the mountains, rivers, and earth are not born with you. Understand that the ancient Buddha teaches that your birth is non-separate from the mountains, rivers, and earth.

Again, all buddhas of all times have already practiced, attained the way, and completed realization. How should we understand that those buddhas are practicing together with us? First of all, examine a buddha’s practice.  A buddha’s practice is to practice in the same manner as the entire universe and all beings. If it is not practice with all beings, it is not a buddha’s practice. This being so, all buddhas, from the moment of attainment of realization, realize and practice as one with the entire universe and all beings.

You may have doubts about this, but the ancient buddha’s word was expounded in order to clarify confusion.

Realize that buddhas are not other than you.

According to this teaching, when all buddhas arouse the thought of enlightenment and practice, they never exclude our body and mind. When we reflect quietly, it appears that our body and mind has practiced together with all buddhas  and has together with them aroused the thought of enlightenment.

When we reflect on the past and future of our body and mind, we cannot find the boundary of self or others. By what delusion do we believe our body and mind is apart from all buddhas? Such delusion is groundless. How then can delusion hinder the arousing of the thought of enlightenment and the practicing of the way by all buddhas?

Mountains and Water Sutra

Mountains have been the abode of great sages from the limitless past to the limitless present. Wise people and sages all have mountains as their inner chamber, as their body and mind. Because of wise people and sages, mountains appear.

You many think that in mountains many wise people and great sages are assembled. But after entering the mountains, not a single person meets another. There is just the activity of the mountains. There is not a trace of anyone having entered the mountains.

Although mountains belong to the nation, mountains belong to people who love them. When mountains love their master, such a virtuous sage or wise person enters the mountains. You should know it as a fact the mountains are fond of wise people and sages. Mountains are not the realm of human beings; do not judge the mountains from the scale of human thought.  There are mountains hidden in treasure. There are mountains hidden in the sky. There are mountains hidden in mountains.

Investigate mountains thoroughly. When you investigate mountains thoroughly, this is the work of the mountains. Such mountains become wise persons and sages.

Dogen (1200-1253)

Excerpted from Moon in a Dewdrop Edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi

Mountains and rivers are effortless teachers.  For many who are without a teacher in human form, mountains and rivers provide ample lessons for the appreciative listener. Just walking along a mountain path or next to a flowing stream and entering the silence of the powerful presence brings one instantly inside the heart of awareness. These teachers don’t need words or stories to illustrate their points.  They just are, and being with them brings us to the state where we forget what we think we haven’t attained. We just are with them. The fullness of the moment speaks for itself.

In the depth of winter the mountains beckon; at some point we realize the mountains are always within us. We never have to leave them; we have become them. In meditation, in life, the activity of mountains and streams becomes the very heart of our own activity.

               I climb the road to Cold Mountain          

              The road to Cold Mountain that never ends.

              The valleys are long and strewn with stones,

              The streams broad and banked with thick grass.

              Moss is slippery, though no rain has fallen;

              Pines sigh, but it isn’t the wind.

              Who can break from the snares of the world

              And sit with me among the white clouds?


Entering the mountain cave,


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