Manifesting our Virtue

Dharma Discourse by Konrad Ryushin Marchaj Sensei
Shobogenzo: Mountains and Rivers Sutra

Featured in Mountain Record 28.3, Spring 2010

These mountains and rivers of the present, are the manifestation of the way of the, ancient sages. Each abides in its own, dharma state, exhaustively fulfilling it’s virtues. Because they exist before the eon of emptiness, they are living in the present. Because they are the self before the appearance of any differences, they are free and unhindered in their actualization. Because the virtues of the mountains are high and broad, the spiritual power to ride the clouds is always entered through the mountains, and the capacity to follow the wind is ultimately liberated from the mountains. —Dogen Zenji

T his first paragraph from Master Dogen’s Mountains and River Sutra is a good beginning for the New Year. It is a good place to start our training as the next generation of practitioners within this Mountains and Rivers Order. And we begin, acknowledging Daido Roshi’s passing, as well as his deep appreciation for this teaching.

“These mountains and rivers of the present are the manifestation of the way of the ancient sages.” Encountering these words some forty years ago, Daido Roshi was riveted by them, and they formed the seed for a vision that, with time, became Zen Mountain Monastery. These words serendipitously greeted him in the front page of the Woodstock Times when he settled in Mount Tremper. They kept him company, providing a checkpoint as he guided thousands of practitioners through the matrix of the Eight Gates, a framework that emerged from his interpretation of the Mountains and Rivers Sutra. Everything we do at Zen Mountain Monastery, everything we’re sharing, everything we hope to communicate and offer to others is tied in some way to this teaching, this paragraph.

It is a very positive beginning—a pointed affirmation of the mountains and rivers, and of the mystery of being itself. There is something, instead of nothing. We are sitting together in this hall, with swirling wind and snow outside, surrounded by innumerable beings that are actualizing the perfection of this reality. There is the mystery of being, the mystery of our awareness of that being, and the mystery of practice—a way of relating to others with our lives. That is not a small thing. And yet it so easily slips beyond our ken.

These mountains and rivers—the features and details of this universe, all of its dimensions and beings, including you and me—are the manifestation of the way of the ancient sages. This universe is the mind of wisdom, ceaselessly displaying the undeniable reality of the buddha nature. These mountains and rivers are a perfection of timeless light and unhindered harmony.