Friday, September 19, 2008

A visit to Dogen's Eiheiji 永平寺: thinking about mountains and waters

These mountains and waters of the present are the expression of the old buddhas. Each, abiding in its own dharma state, fulfills exhaustive virtues.
During a visit to Hokkaido in the summer of 2003 I developed a relationship with Dogen's san-sui-kyou (山水経)--Mountains and Waters Sutra. The words of the sutra solidified within me during a hike of Hokkaido's Asahi-dake; I've held a deep affinity for Dogen ever since.

So, it was with great joy that I recently had the chance to visit Dogen's temple, Eiheiji (永平寺), for the second time. Eiheiji is located in the low foothills above Fukui City in Fukui Prefecture. The temple is one of the main of the Soto-zen sect and practicioners from around Japan still come to study there. Lay practicioners are also allowed (you can find more information here).

Don't know that my words will do much justice to Dogen or Eiheiji--and surely not to the mountains and waters of the world. So, I thought I would just offer some of Dogen's words, along with some photos.

The mountains lack none of their proper virtues; hence, they are constantly at rest and constantly walking. We must devote ourselves to a detailed study of this virtue of walking.

Although the walking of the blue mountains is faster than "swift as the wind", those in the mountains do not sense this, do not know it. To be "in the mountains" is "a flower opening within the world".
Those who would know their own walking must also know the walking of the blue mountains.
It is because of the baseness of the common person's point of view that we doubt the phrase "the blue mountains walk"; because of the crudeness of our limited experience, we are surprised by the words "flowing mountain". Without having fully penetrated even the term "flowing water", we just remain sunk in our limited perception.
The tips of the mountains' feet walk across the waters, setting them dancing.
The foolish common folk think that water is always in rivers, streams, and seas, but this is not so: [water] makes rivers and seas within water. Therefore, water is in places that are not rivers and seas; it is just that, when water descends to earth, it works as rivers and seas.
Nevertheless, when dragons and fish see water as a palace, just as when humans see palaces, they do not view it as flowing. And, if some onlooker were to explain to them that their palace was flowing water, they would surely be just as amazed as we are now to hear it said that mountains flow.
However many great sages and wise men we suppose have assembled in the mountains, ever since they entered the mountains no one has met a single one of them. There is only the expression of the mountain way of life; not a single trace of their having entered remains. The "crown and eyes" [of the mountains] are completely different when we are in the world gazing off at the mountains and when we are in the mountains meeting the mountains. Our concept of not-flowing and our understanding of not-flowing should not be the same as the dragon's understanding.
An old buddha has said, "Mountains are mountains and waters are waters."
These words do not say that mountains are mountains; they say that mountains are mountains. Therefore, we should thoroughly study these mountains. When we thoroughly study the mountains, this is the mountain training. Such mountains and waters themselves become wise men and sages.
P.S. All's well in Otaki.

Good day, Ontake-san!!!

1 comment:

Al said...

Nice pictures! I especially like the three monks.