Landscape (details), Shen Shicong, 1631.
Landscape (details), Shen Shicong, 1631.

An ancient Buddha said:

For the time being stand on top of the highest peak.
For the time being proceed along the bottom of the deepest ocean.
For the time being three heads and eight arms. For the time being an eight-or sixteen-foot body. For the time being a staff or whisk.
For the time being a pillar or lantern.
For the time being the sons of Zhang and Li.
For the time being the earth and sky.

“For the time being” here means time itself is being, and all being is time. A golden sixteen-foot body is time; because it is time, there is the radiant illumination of time. Study it as the twelve hours of the present. ‘Three heads and eight arms” is time; because it is time, it is not separate from the twelve hours of the present.

Know that in this way there are myriads of forms and hundreds of grasses throughout the entire earth, and yet each grass and each form itself is the entire earth. The study of this is the beginning of practice.

When you are at this place, there is just one grass, there is just one form; there is understanding of form and no-understanding of form; there is understanding of grass and no-understanding of grass. Since there is nothing but just this moment, the time-being is all the time there is. Grass-being, form-being are both time.

Each moment is all being, is the entire world. Reflect now whether any being or any world is left out of the present moment.

Yet an ordinary person who does not understand buddha-dharma may hear the words the time-being this way:

For a while I was three heads and eight arms. For a while I was an eight- or sixteen-foot body. This is like having crossed over rivers and climbed mountains. Even though the mountains and rivers still exist, I have already passed them and now reside in the jeweled palace and vermilion rower. Those mountains and rivers are as distant from me as heaven is from earth.

It is not that simple. At the time the mountains were climbed and the rivers crossed, you were present. Time is not separate from you, and as you are present, time does not go away.

As time is not marked by coming and going, the moment you climbed the mountains is the time-being right now. If time keeps coming and going, you are the time-being right now. This is the meaning of the time-being.

Does this time-being not swallow up the moment when you climbed the mountains and the moment when you resided in the jeweled palace and vermilion tower? Does it not spit them out?

Do not think that time merely flies away. Do not see flying away as the only function of time. If time merely flies away, you would be separated from time. The reason you do not clearly understand the time-being is that you think of time only as passing.

In essence, all things in the entire world are linked with one another as moments. Because all moments are the time-being, they are your time-being.

The time-being has the quality of flowing. So-­called today flows into tomorrow, today flows into yesterday, yesterday flows into today. And today flows into today, tomorrow flows into tomorrow.

Because flowing is a quality of time, moments of past and present do not overlap or line up side by side. Qingyuan is time, Huangbo is time, Jiangxi is time, Shirou is time, because self and other are already time. Practice-enlightenment is time. Being splattered with mud and getting wet with water is also time.

Just actualize all time as all being; there is nothing extra. A so-called “extra being” is thoroughly an extra being. Thus, the time-being half-actualized is half of the time-being completely actualized, and a moment that seems to be missed is also completely being. In the same way, even the moment before or after the moment that appears to be missed is also complete­in-itself the time-being. Vigorously abiding in each moment is the time-being. Do not mistakenly confuse it as nonbeing. Do not forcefully assert it as being.

Mountains are time. Oceans are time. If they were not time, there would be no mountains or oceans. Do not think that mountains and oceans here and now are not time. If time is annihilated, mountains and oceans are annihilated. As time is not annihilated, mountains and oceans are nor annihilated.

This being so, the morning star appears, the Tathagata appears, the eye appears, and raising a flower appears. Each is time. If it were nor time, it could not be thus.

On the first day of winter, first year of Ninji [1240], this was written at Kosho Horin Monastery.

 Landscape (details), Shen Shicong, 1631.
Landscape (details), Shen Shicong, 1631.

Translated by Dan Welch and Kazuaki Tanahashi; excerpted from Moon in a Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master Dogen, reprinted with permission from North Point Press.

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