A fish swims in the ocean, and no matter how far it swims there is no end to the water. A bird flies in the sky, and no matter how far it flies there is no end to the sky. However, the fish and the bird have never left their elements. When their activity is large their field is large. When their need is small their field is small. Thus, each of them totally covers its full range, and each of them totally experiences its realm. If the bird leaves the air, it will die at once. If the fish leaves the water, it will die at once.
Know that water is life and air is life. The bird is life and the fish is life. Life must be the bird and life must be the fish.
Besides this, further steps can be taken. Thus there are practice and enlightenment, which encompass both eternal life and limited life.
Now if a bird or a fish tries to reach the end of its element before moving in it, this bird or this fish will not find its way or its place. When you find your place where you are, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point; for the place, the way, is neither large nor small, neither yours nor others’. The place, the way, has not carried over from the past, and it is not merely arising now.
Accordingly, in the practice-enlightenment of the buddha way, to attain one dharma is to penetrate one dharma, to meet one practice is to sustain one practice.
Here is the place; here the way unfolds. The boundary of realization is not distinct, for the realization comes forth simultaneously with the mastery of buddhadharma.
From Dogen’s Genjo Koan: Three Commentaries with commentary by Mel Weitsman, Michael Wenger, and Shohaku Okamura © 2011. Reprinted by permission of Counterpoint.
Sign up for Tricycle’s newsletters
This is the first of your three free articles this month. Subscribe today to gain access to our award-winning publication plus all of our online offerings, including films, video dharma talks, e-books, and more.Subscribe Now
Already a subscriber? Log in.