The following is translated from the 29th fascicle of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (Eye of Real Dharma). Dogen (1200-1253) brought Soto Zen to Japan from China. His collection of works known as the Shobogenzo is a foundational work in Japanese Zen and has been translated many times. But this translation is a little different. Of this new translation, Kidder Smith writes: “[Dogen’s] language is a unique grapholect, jumpy and precise. But whereas his sentences tend to be lengthy, layered, folding rapturously back on and through themselves, that is, of the nature of mind, mine are blunt and short. Perhaps someone may yet devise an English prose that fully manifests his beauty. So here we have his speech, from which perhaps we may discern his mind, from which we may discern an unknowing.”
1. Right now
Right now, we mountains and waters, we embody old ways, with you, on thrones, we accomplish all activity. This life, from before something or nothing, secrets of riding cloud and wind.
2. Green mountains
Green mountains constantly walking. Holding all activity, constantly abiding, constantly walking. Because it’s walking, it’s constant. Please look at this closely.
3. Same or different
Mountains walking, humans walking. To know this walking is to seize the root.
Green mountains walking fast as wind, even faster. Even in the mountains we may not know this. The mountains is where flowers bloom. Outside the mountains we don’t know this, that’s how it is.
If we doubt this walking, we don’t yet know our own walking. It’s not that we don’t walk, we just don’t know it yet, it’s not yet clear to us.
We mountains have never been real, nor have we ever been unreal. You have never been real, nor have you ever been unreal. This moment we expunge all doubt about green mountains walking.
6. Mountains fluxing
Please study green mountains from every point of view, and clearly investigate your own walking as well as ours. Walking forward and backward, stepping into it and out, investigate this too.
Then investigate how walking forward and walking backward haven’t ceased for a moment since before there was something-nothing. Should walking lapse, then the ancestors can’t show up. Should walking end, then nothing will arise. A ceaseless walking forward, a ceaseless walking backward. This is mountains flowing and flowing mountains.
7. Our face
Green mountain practice is walking and east mountain practice is traveling by water. All over the place we practice like this, our face never alters.
If you don’t receive our walking, if you don’t receive our traveling by water, this is calumny. Don’t drown in that.
And still our activity manifests in form and life-force. Walking. Flowing. The moment when we give birth to our mountain child. We manifest ancestors because we accord with ancestral principle.
10. Scraps of sky
Don’t fret if you only see us as grass, trees, rocks, and cliff-face. Don’t get fooled if you see us as garlands of sublime treasure. Don’t tarry if you see us as the space of exalted practice. If you see us as the pinnacle of all buddhas’ inconceivable activity, just let us be. These are scraps of sky.
Insight, meditation, illumination—these are the claptrap appurtenances of zen. What is green mountains constantly walking, eastern mountains traveling by water? Please look at this closely.
12. Giving birth
Female rocks giving birth at night. (“Night” means when we give birth.) In general there are male rocks and female rocks, and rocks that are neither male nor female. Sky rocks and earth rocks, patching sky and earth. We’re everywhere, but people mostly don’t know it.
Know the principle of giving birth. At the moment of birth, do mother and child turn into each other? By this birth, the child is the mother. By this birth, the mother is the child. Please look at this closely.
Master Cloudgate says, “You east mountains travel by water.” He said this because all of us mountains are east mountains, and every mountain travels by water. The nine great mountains all manifest realization, so we’re all called “east mountains.” But can Cloudgate also strip off our skin, flesh, bone, and marrow? (The Buddhist people in China these days are all idiots.)
We east mountains traveling by water — this is the ancestors’ marrow. All waters emerge at the feet of east mountains, so all mountains ride clouds and walk the sky. All mountains are the peaks of all waters. We walk on water, up and down, our toes in all waters, splashing all waters in all directions. This is realization.
Waters are not hard and soft, wet and dry, moving and still, cold and hot, real and unreal, nor are we enlightened and confused. When we freeze, we’re harder than diamond, you can’t crush us. When we melt, we’re gentler than milk, you can’t crush us. These are in every respect our manifest activities.
16. Seeing water
Look at the precise moment when waters of the ten directions appear as waters of the ten directions. This is not studying when humans or deities see water, it’s when waters realize waters as waters. Look at this, and at the main roads where self meets self. Then go up and down the back roads where other encounters other. Then abandon this.
In general, we see mountains and waters according to our being. Some see water as strands of jeweled ornaments. But they don’t see jeweled ornaments as water. What forms do we humans see that they would call water? Are their jewel strands what we see as water?
Some see water as blossoms adorning the cosmos. But they don’t use those flowers as water. Hunger-beings see water as fierce fire, or as pus and blood. Dragons see it as palaces, other beings see it as forest walls, or as original enlightenment. Human beings see it as water. All this depends on where you
were born, on whether you kill water or give it life.
17. The generosity of water
Everyone has water, but there is no water. Water doesn’t appear according to body, mind, deeds, self or other, its liberation is according to water. Though it’s not earth-water-fire-air-space, it still manifests as earth-water-fire-air-space of its own accord.
So how do our palaces and lands come into being right now? Do you ask because you think they depend on somewhere to abide? Everything is liberated. Nothing abides. Unbound, we abide on our thrones.
18. Dropping into pools
When human beings look at water, we always see it as flowing. There are many kinds of flow — we see only the edge of them. Water flows through earth, through sky, on earth, under earth. It curves about, it streams into the Great Vortex, it mounts clouds, it drops into pools.
19. Water is light
Wenzi speaks of water’s way: “It ascends to sky as rain and dew. It descends to earth as river and stream.” Though water is unaware of water’s way, it still functions nicely as water. Though water is not unaware of water’s way, it still functions nicely as water.
“Water ascends to sky as rain.” It mounts high heaven, it’s inside flame, in thinking, analysis, discrimination, in awareness itself, there’s nowhere it doesn’t get.
“Water descends to earth as rivers,” whose marrow is the sages. Water’s not just rivers and seas, it makes rivers and seas from within water. When it gets to earth, it has all the virtue of rivers and seas. Uncounted lands of the buddha manifest inside a single drop. Nonetheless, there is no water inside the lands, nor lands within water.
When we humans and dragons see palaces of wood or water, we don’t necessarily understand that they’re flowing, just as mountains are. Should a bystander explain their flow to us, we’d both be shocked. Please study whether there is water in the house of the ancestors.
20. The sound of mountains
Mountains outpace past and present, we’re where sages abide. Sages know us as their secret dwelling, as their body-mind. They bring us here, yet no trace of our visiting survives.
Please inscribe this way in skin-flesh-bone-marrow, in the karmas of your body-mind, in something and in nothing. Even in trees and rocks, even in fields and towns.
We mountains are part of the nation, but still more we are part of our lovers. When we’re in love, sages enter us. When sages live in us, we are part of one another, so trees and rocks luxuriate, and birds and animals grow numinous and full. We’re truly fond of sages.
21. Hooking water
We ancient sages always abide with water. When we abide with water, we hook fish, we hook men, we hook the way, all in stylish water ways. We even hook the self, hook the hook, get hooked by the hook, get hooked by the way. This water is the palace of real dragons, who don’t just float away. If we regard it as casual flow, then flowing slanders water as badly as if we’d said “not flowing.”
22. Hiding mountains
In jewels there are hiding mountains, in swamps there are hiding mountains, in space there are hiding mountains, in mountains there are hiding mountains.
Please study mountains hiding in hiding.
Here’s the thing, we mountains aren’t mountains, we’re mountains. Water’s just water, water activity, it’s not flowing.
From Abruptly Dogen (Punctum Books, 2022). Readers can download the book for free here.
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