“Those outside the mountains do not sense this, do not know it. Those without eyes to see the mountains do not sense, do not know, do not see, do not hear this truth.” We can understand this passage in a couple of different ways. Both those inside and outside of the mountains are not aware of the mountains walking because they are the mountains. There is no reference system that remains. It’s the mountain of the dharmadhatu, the mountain of the realm of reality. It’s the eye that cannot see itself. It’s the sword that cannot cut itself. There is no realizing, no knowing. The other way to comprehend this line is that “those without eyes to see the mountains” lack the dharma eye to see. They lack true understanding of the mountains. They know nothing of the unity of their own body and the mountain.

Then Dogen says, “Thus, the accumulated virtues of the mountain represent its name and form, its very lifeblood. There is a mountain walk and a mountain flow, and there is a time when the mountain gives birth to a mountain child. The mountains become the buddhas and ancestors, and it is for this reason that the buddhas and ancestors have thus appeared.” The accumulated virtues of the mountain are the mountains walking, the mountains flowing, mountains riding the clouds. The virtues of mountains are their teachings. The word “lifeblood” has been translated differently by different people, but it can be referred to as lineage or tradition, as well as true aspect or essential reality.

“There is a time when the mountain gives birth to a mountain child.” Mountains give birth to all dharmas. They give birth to buddhas; they give birth to the white clouds. “And it is for this reason that the buddhas and ancestors have thus appeared.”

All of our practice and training can be seen in terms of the Five Ranks. We have monastic practice and we have lay practice. They are interdependent. They have a mutual causality. Practice in the world and on the mountain can’t exist without the other. The same applies to the teacher and student relationship. They cannot be separated. They nourish and support each other.

Having clearly seen the first rank of Dongshan, we move into the second rank—the coming out of the absolute basis of reality to manifest in the world of the ten thousand things. But at this point we also know that things are intrinsically empty, that they can only exist through interdependent origination. That’s why mountains walk and flow. That’s why the stone woman gives birth to a child in the night, or the mountain gives birth to a mountain child.

The capping verse:

in each tree, rock, bird and beast
I meet myself.
It is at once me,
and I am not it.

You and I are the same thing, but I’m not you and you’re not me. It’s no use trying to understand this. It’s no use believing it. You have to realize it with the whole body and mind. When you do, that realization transforms your way of perceiving yourself and the universe. And that is no small thing.




John Daido Loori, Roshi is the abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery. A successor to Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi, Roshi, Daido Roshi trained in rigorous koan Zen and in the subtle teachings of Master Dogen, and is a lineage holder in the Soto and Rinzai schools of Zen.