Returning to the Mountains and Rivers

Dharma Discourse by John Daido Loori Roshi
True Dharma Eye, Case #16
Changsha's "Returning to the Mountains, Rivers and the Great Earth"

Featured in Mountain Record 30.1,  Fall 2011

John Daido Loori Roshi (1931-2009) was the abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery and founder of the Mountains and Rivers Order. Daido Roshi was a lineage holder in the Rinzai and Soto schools of Zen. He originally gave this discourse in 1997.

Main Case

Zen Master Jingcen of Changsha was once asked by a monastic, "How do you turn the mountains, rivers and great earth and return to the self?" Changsha said, "How do you turn the self and return to the mountains, rivers and great earth?"


Responding to the myriad things from the perspective of the self is delusion. Manifesting the self from the perspective of the myriad things is enlightenment. From ancient times to the present, people have regarded the myriad things as separate from themselves, not realizing that the universe is the body of the Buddha—this very body and mind itself.

What do you see when you behold the mountain? Can you see the real form of truth? What do you hear when you listen to the river sounds? Can you hear the subtle gathas of rock and water? Or are you trapped in the superficiality of sound and form?

Mountains, rivers and the great earth are ceaselessly manifesting the teachings, yet they are not heard with the ear or seen with the eye. They can only be perceived with the whole body and mind. Be that as it may, how do you turn the self and return to the mountains, rivers and the great earth? What is it that you are calling mountains, rivers and the great earth? Indeed, where do you find your self?

The Capping Verse

There is no place to hide the true self.
When the universe disintegrates
           "it" remains indestructible.
This gigantic body ultimately has no abode.