It’s kind of interesting when you look at the human body: we’re in equilibrium with the universe. We’re constantly taking in life and we’re constantly producing waste, constantly taking in and giving out. The amount of giving out that we do amounts to about 16 tons every 30 years. That’s a lot of whatever. And then there’s 16 tons of life that comes in, that’s turned into fingernails, hair, everything. I ask myself the question all the time, Who am I really? The 16 tons of waste I’ve produced, the 16 tons of food I’ve yet to consume, or the 170 pounds that’s being held together by this bag of skin? Who’s the real Daido Roshi? And what happens when we die? There’s no more food coming in, but we’re still combining with the universe—whether we do it fast by cremation or allow it to happen slowly by decay and decomposition, or feed it to the crows and the vultures like the Tibetans do. In any case, our body becomes dispersed throughout the universe. Kind of beautiful, don’t you think?
So where’s the self in all this? Did the self suddenly jump into the body when it was born? Or when an embryo was formed? Or at the time of conception? What’s the relationship between the Nirvana Forest and the ten directions? What makes the echoless valley echoless? What makes an echo? Dogen said, “Do you want an echoless valley? I shout ‘Sisters’ to all seven of you. If you respond, I immediately say, ‘I’ve given you an echoless valley.’ If you do not respond, I say, ‘after all it doesn’t echo.’ ”
What is he saying? In order for there to be rootlessness, echolessness, the seamless continuum of north and south, no Yin and Yang, there needs to be identity, intimacy. Understand that an echoless valley is not a valley at all. There’s no walls, no canyon, no container, no delineations to establish boundaries. There are no surfaces to reflect off of, no sound to begin with. So I ask you, what is soundlessness? Thoreau once said, “I hear beyond the range of sound, I see beyond the verge of sight.” How is that? How is it to go beyond the range of sound and sight? Again— intimacy.