During the hermitages that Dogen often did on the mountain of his monastery, he would occasionally turn to poetry to express his love of and trust in the practice of zazen. At the end of one of those periods, he wrote:
Evening zazen hours advance, sleep hasn’t
More and more I realize,
Mountains and rivers are good for the efforts
in the Way.
The sounds in the river valley enter my ears.
The light of the moon fills my eyes.
Outside of this, there’s not a single thing.
We tend to marginalize the best of who we are, allocate it to moments when we are tested by life’s circumstances. We somehow managed to secularize reality, temporalize it, drive a wedge into the heart of our very being. We have separated ourselves from the texture of life itself. We’ve relegated our spirituality and wholeness to a little corner of life—a day, a time set aside for practice. We’ve given it convenient labels, pushed it to the side. Imperceptibly, we’ve lost contact with who we truly are, with our nature that encompasses everything.
Practice is our life. This is Daido Roshi’s teaching. In taking practice up directly, we pay our tribute to him. In a sense, that is really the only relevant way that we can do that. When people who felt grateful for Roshi’s intervention and presence in their lives asked him what they could do to repay their gratitude, he always said that the only thing that mattered was for them to practice and realize their true nature.
Daido Roshi saw who we really are. He asked us to see the same
Konrad Ryushin Marchaj Sensei is abbot and director of operations of Zen Mountain Monastery. He received dharma transmission from Daido Roshi in 2009.
Sansuikyo: The Mountains and Rivers Sutra (1240) is a chapter in Japanese Zen Master Eihei Dogen’s masterwork, Shobogenzo. The sutra, considered by many to be the most eloquent of Dogen’s writings, depicts the interrelatedness of the absolute and the relative.