Mountain is Mountain, Water is Water
When we start to practice Zen as beginners, it is completely natural for us that a mountain is a mountain, and water is simply water. With time, if we conscientiously continue to practice and our insight into the real nature of the universe deepens, we come to the view that a mountain is not really a mountain. It looks like a mountain, we call it a mountain, but in its true nature it is “empty”, has no real existence. The ordinary, relative view on phenomena gets joined by an absolute view, in which things appear as empty, as just perceived forms, just like a film on a screen, or a Fatamorgana. In the course of our practice we switch constantly back and forth between these two views, until with time a holistic vision takes over which embraces and combines both aspects. Then we can agree from our deepest heart, and with profound understanding to:
MOUNTAIN IS MOUNTAIN – WATER IS WATER!
Everlasting Pure Wind
There is a Zen saying:
A cool wind blows softly through our mind – no matter what happens.
No matter what happens – a cool wind blows softly through our mind.
This “wind”, what is it? We know the Kôan of the flag that moves with the wind. The monks discuss whether it is the wind that moves the flag, or whether it is the flag that moves with the wind. The master tells them: “It is your mind that moves!” Basically neither the wind, nor the flag, nor the mind moves. This “basically” is the everlasting pure wind, which brings forth the countless phenomena in a wonderful and mysterious way. It blows without blowing. It blows through us and through the whole universe and moves all things, without beginning – without end. When we surrender completely to its blowing, everything is all right as it is. Then a cool wind blows softly through our mind – no matter what happens.
White Clouds fluat, float
The clouds in the sky! Constantly they are changing, moving and they stay ungraspable, and without solid substance. Sometimes they are lovely, but sometimes they are dark and seem to be threatening, or even dangerous. We advice the beginners in Zen to treat their thoughts like clouds; to let them come and let them go, without doing anything with them. Here the clouds stand as a metaphor for our thoughts, our opinions, our judgments, our ideas, our hopes and wishes, and our illusions. Ceaselessly they float through the empty sky of our consciousness. It requires much practice to just let them come and let them go. Often they appear to be fascinating and interesting, and we are tempted to interfere with them, to pursue and further develop them. When we are able to let it be, and to stay patiently and persistently with our breath, then they calm down. Then we become stable and firm, and get into a deeply rooted calmness and composure. This state is called Samadhi.
On a much deeper level, all phenomena, that which we perceive with our senses as reality, can be seen as clouds, coming and going, moved by the “Everlasting Pure Wind”. Everything is impermanent, everything is changing, and nothing lasts forever. The Diamond Sutra ends with the following beautiful verse, which expresses in a poetic way this vista:
So I tell you:
All composite things are like a dream,
a fantasy, a bubble and a shadow,
are like a dewdrop, and a flash of lightning.
They are thus to be regarded.
– And so you should
Think in this way of all this fleeting world:
As a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
a dewdrop, a flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
a flickering lamp, a phantom and a dream.
Fundamentally not a thing exists
Normally we are convinced that the world, and also the sun, the stars and the moon exist, because we perceive them with our senses. But if we look at this in a honest, sober and accurate way, we have to admit: All we have at first is just this perception; we see, hear, taste, smell and feel. Only in a second step we interpret what we perceive and call it, following the common consensus, a tree, or a car, or whatever. Only with this step the perception becomes a “thing”. It becomes so to speak independent, different and apart from other “things”, or perceptions, and also from the perceiver. In deep Samadhi, in the depth of our own unconscious, we can become One with the surrounding, the situation, the “things” that are around us. In this state the perception, what is perceived, and the perceiver cannot longer be differentiated. Anybody who has made this experience of being One, knows about the deep feeling of “coming home”, which arises within ourselves at that moment; knows about the recovery that comes with it. Within this absolute connectedness with the boundless universe, and all the phenomena that arise in it, actually “not a thing” exists. Whether we human beings know it or not: Our heart deeply longs for this being in the good hands of the absolute connectedness.