Dogen teaches in his Mountains and Rivers sutra that, “The walking of the Blue Mountains is swifter than the wind, but human beings in the mountains do not sense it or know it...If we doubt the walking of the mountains, we also do not yet know our own walking...When we know our own walking, then we will surely also know the walking of the Blue Mountains” As I read this sutra I wanted to know the walking of the Blue Mountains. I thought: how can I truly know that mountains are walking? Mountains appear pretty rigid, standing tall not going anywhere, what walking are mountains doing? How are they walking? Science tells us that the universe is consistently expanding. Mountains are a part of the universe and so mountains must also be expanding, but that’s my intellectual thought. I really don’t understand the walking of mountains. I want to know how mountains walk. Since there are no mountains near me, I couldn’t go walking in a mountain. I therefore decided to know the walking of mountains by investigating my own walking, as Dogen said; when we know our own walking we will also know that mountains are walking. So I started investigating my own walking.
I first thought about what it meant to walk. Words, words.... I decided I would not get into meaning of words. I will just stay present with my walking. I am observing my walking; I am always walking, walking around the house from one room to the next, walking to get food, to do this, to do that, walking outdoors... And then it hit me, after a few days of walking: I am alive! I have travelled from my mother’s womb to where I am today the same way the mountains are growing and expanding each day. The life force or Life is being lived through me the same way Life is living through the mountains! What is this life force? It’s the energy that moves me to get out of bed, to get a cup of coffee, to pick up a book, or to rest. It’s the same life force that moves the tectonic plates of earth creating mountains; it’s the life force in the gut of the mountain that erupts as volcanoes, in fire and lava, creating new land, new plants, and new life. The Mountains are alive, they are moving, walking!
The Blue Mountains and I are doing the same dance, or walk. Life is being lived through us both, together and at the same time, as this planet earth hangs out in space, in nowhere, in everywhere, in the Universe. The mountains are walking the same way earth is hurling through space. Nothing is static, and no thing is rigid. Sometimes, when I am still, just sometimes, I feel the life force as the mountains, as me, as the river, as the stars as Life, as one force that is everything, separately, and together as one.
Because Life is walking, moving, hurling, walking swiftly, swifter than the wind, then there is no permanence. Life is constantly moving, constantly changing. We attach to fix ideas such as the mountain is static, it’s rigid, or that is a cat, or I am a woman. That fuzzy thing in the corner, is it really a cat? Why do we call it a cat? We sometimes need labels and words to communicate. We also develop fixed ideas to ease our own anxiety and soothe our fear of death. “This has to be so”, otherwise life does not have meaning. This can’t be it. There must be more.
We develop concepts about life after death and subscribe to different religious beliefs, because of our refusal to accept what is. We create illusions and refuse to see outside of our illusions. Mountains are static, rivers flow, stones cannot give birth. We create other ideas such as the concept of merit, if I am good I will go to heaven or reincarnate as a higher being. We do this to alleviate our anxiety about what we know through our own walking, that things are constantly changing. But nothing is permanent. My son may die before me, a hurricane may arise and destroy everything I own, I may contract the coronavirus and die, no matter how much wealth I acquire I cannot beat death. As we develop strong delusions, we also become blind to reality and we become attached to fixed ideas such as this is solid, or I am a solid being, or mountains cannot walk. But life is constantly moving, and death is inevitable, just as Life is. We try to find meaning in life and attach ideas and beliefs to create some sense of security. But everything is impermanent; everything is walking, moving, and changing --- even mountains which appear so strong and rigid. Everything arises and disappears, even mountains. The Blue Mountains I see today are not the same ones that were there yesterday, new life has formed, soils have eroded, new plants and other life forms have emerged; the mountain is walking, growing, living, and flowing with life.
Every moment, Life is happening. Lives are being created and being destroyed. Babies are being born, people are dying. What is this Life, what is it that’s happening? What is life? We get a glimpse of what’s happening through investigating our own walking. Today I am doing this tomorrow I am doing that. Yesterday I was a baby, a toddler, a teenager and now a grown woman, how did I get here, where did I come from, where am I going? Wherever I go, or come, I am always right here -- seeming like a solid being, but through being a baby, a toddler, an adult, through my walking and changes, I know I am not quite solid even though I am right here just like the Blue Mountains. Like the flower blooming, we don’t see the movement unless we have a time lapse video....I am shedding skin, growing new cells, new hair, new muscles as I write this, although I appear to be just sitting here, like a mountain. Nothing is static. Life is occurring. Life is living through us, through the mountains, through the rivers, the stars. Life has been occurring before the “beginning” of time and will continue after the “end” of time. Life is happening. Everywhere. Right here.
By accepting that everything is impermanent, we live less attached to fixed ideas, we are more in acceptance of what is and open to endless possibilities. We can accept that death is as a much a part of Life as living is, we can live more in harmony with Life. We know that we, as we know ourselves, this physical being, have a limited time even while Life is unlimited unending, continuous, moving, walking ,flowing through us, with us as us and as mountains and rivers.
Without attachment to rigid ideas and concepts we are able to recognize the walking of the Blue Mountains and recognize the birth of stone babies - things or ideas that we might perceive as impossibilities. They are only impossible because of our attachment to what we think we perceive. Without attachment to our ideas and concepts we too will flow like the eastern Mountains flowing on water. Without wanting things to be the way we believe they should be, and us being in full acceptance of what is; gently allowing, not resisting, we are able to move lightly through life almost without disturbance, just like the mountains are walking, although seemingly still.
In gassho with love, Kogetsu