A week of playing with Dogen, the breath, and the brush.
Starting with the daunting 1171-page Treasury of the True Dharma Eye, edited by Kaz Tanahashi (Shambhala Pub 2010). Dogen used the image of the mountain powerfully through his writings and the most familiar to us is likely the Mountains and Waters Sutra (pp. 154-164). Another use of mountains is in an undated fascicle:
An ancient buddha said, “Mountains, rivers, and earth are born at the same moment with each person. All buddhas of the past, present, and future are practicing together with each person.”
If we look at mountains, rivers, and earth when a person is born, this person’s birth does not seem to be bringing forth additional mountains, rivers, and earth on top of the existing ones. Yet, the ancient buddha’s words should not be a mistake. How should we understand this?
Dogen tends to remind me not to take things literally. Or maybe it’s a reminder to not stop at the literal. He goes on to say that we have no way of knowing our own beginning or ending – or anyone else’s. Similarly, we don’t know the beginnings or endings of “mountains, rivers, and the earth.” And here’s the hook: this not-knowing doesn’t keep us from “see(ing) the place and walk(ing) there.” And so it is with practice, with living and with dying.