Readings – The Scripture of Mountains and Waters
THE SCRIPTURE OF MOUNTAINS AND WATERS (Sansuikyo by Dogen Kigen)
The mountains and waters of the immediate present are the
manifestation of the path of the ancient Buddhas.
Together abiding in their normative state, they have consummated the qualities of thorough exhaustiveness.
Because they are events prior to the empty eon, they are the livelihood of the immediate present.
Because they are the self before the emergence of signs, they are the penetrating liberation of immediate actuality.
By the height and breadth of the qualities of the mountains, the virtue of riding the clouds is always mastered from the mountains and the subtle work of following the wind as a rule penetrates through to liberation from the mountains.
Master Dokai said to the congregation,
The green mountains are forever walking; a stone woman bears a child by night.
Mountains lack none of the qualities proper to them.
For this reason they forever remain settled and they forever walk.
That quality of walking should be investigated in detail.
Because the walking of mountains must be like the walking of people, don’t doubt the walking of mountains just because it doesn’t look the same as the walking of human beings.
Now the teaching of the Buddhas and Zen adepts has already pointed out walking – this is the attainment of the fundamental.
You should thoroughly examine and be sure about this indication to the congregation of ‘forever walking’ – because of walking, it is forever.
Though the walking of the green mountains is fast as wind
and even faster, people in the mountains are unaware, uncognizant.
In the mountains is blooming of flowers that is inside the world – and people outside the mountains are unaware, uncognizant.
People who do not have the eyes to see the mountains do not notice, do not know, they do not see, do not hear – it is this principle.
If one doubts the walking of the mountains, one doesn’t even
yet know one’s own walking either.
It’s not that one’s own walking doesn’t exist – it is that one does not yet know or understand one’s own walking.
If one knew one’s own walking, one would know the walking of the green mountains.
The green mountains are not animate, not inanimate; the self is not animate, not inanimate. One should not doubt this walking of the green mountains.
Who knows by the measure of how many phenomenal realms the
green mountains may be perceived. The walking of the green mountains as well as
the walking of oneself should be clearly examined.
There should be examination both in stepping back and stepping forward.
At the precise time of before signs, as well as from the other side of the king of emptiness, in stepping forward and stepping back, walking never stops for a moment – this fact you should examine.
If walking ever stopped, Buddhas and Zen adepts would not appear.
If walking had a final end, Buddhism wouldn’t have reached the present.
Stepping forward has never stopped, stepping back has never stopped.
When stepping forward, that doesn’t oppose stepping back, and when stepping back, that doesn’t oppose stepping forward.
This quality is called the mountains flowing, it is called the flowing mountains.
Because the green mountains too learn walking, and the eastern mountains learn travelling on the water, this learning is the learning of the mountains.
This doesn’t change the body and mind of the mountains – keeping the face of the mountains, they have learned on a winding road.
Don’t repudiate this by saying that the green mountains
cannot walk, that the eastern mountains cannot travel on the waters.
It is because of the meanness of a low point of view that one doubts the saying
the green mountains are walking;
it is because of the incompetence of little learning that one is startled by the saying flowing mountains.
While you don’t even understand fully the words flowing water now, you are only sunk and drowning in small views and small learning.
So it is that the total bringing forth of amassed qualities
is made into form and name, into the lifeline. There is walking, there is
There is a time when mountains give birth to mountain children.
Because of the principle of mountains becoming Buddhas and Zen adepts, Buddhas and Zen adepts emerge and appear in this way.
Even when we may have eyes for the manifestation of plants and trees, earth and stones, walls and fences, we are not in doubt, not disturbed –
this is not total manifestation of being.
Even though a time may manifest when it is seen as arrays of treasures, this is not the true ultimate.
Even if there is manifestation of being seen as the realm of the Buddha’s practice of the Way, it is not necessarily something to love.
Even if we attain the summit of seeing manifestation of being as the inconceivable qualities of the Buddhas, reality as it is is not only like this.
Individual views of being are individual objects and subjects.
This is not to say that they are to be considered the work on the Way of Buddhas and Zen adepts – they are limited views of one corner.
Transforming the environment, transforming the mind is something scorned by great sages; speaking of mind, speaking of nature is something not approved by Buddhas and Zen adepts; seeing the mind, seeing nature is the livelihood of heretics; sticking to words and phrases is not the expression of liberation.
There is that which has passed through and shed such realms
– that is the green mountains are forever walking, it is the eastern mountains
travel on the waters.
You should examine this thoroughly.
As for a stone woman bearing a child by night,
the time when a stone woman bears a child is called night. Generally speaking, there are male stones and female stones, and there are stones neither male nor female; they patch the sky and patch the earth. These are celestial stones and earth stones.
Though this is a folk saying, it is rare for anyone to know it.
You should know the principle of bearing a child.
When bearing a child, do parent and child emanate together?
Would you only approach the study of this in terms of child becoming parent being the actualization of bearing a child?
You should study and penetrate how the time when parent becomes child is the practice and realization of bearing a child.
Great Master Ummon said, The eastern mountains travel on the
As for the essential meaning of this expression of being, all mountains are the eastern mountains; all the eastern mountains are travelling on the waters.
For this reason the manifestation, the experience of the nine mountains, Mt. Sumeru, and so on is called the eastern mountains.
But how could Ummon pass freely through the skin, flesh, bones, and marrow, the livelihood of cultivation and realization of the eastern mountains?
You should know that the eastern mountains travel on the
waters is the bones and marrow of the Buddhas and Zen adepts.
The waters have become manifest at the feet of the eastern mountains; for this reason the mountains climb to the clouds and walk in the heavens.
The top of the head of the waters is the mountains; walking, both heading upwards and right down, is on the waters.
The points of the feet of the mountains walk on the waters, cause the waters to spurt forth; so the walking is uninhibited, it is not that there is no cultivation and realization.
Water is not strong or weak, not wet or dry, not moving or
still, not cool or warm, not existent or nonexistent, not delusion or
When frozen, it is hard as a diamond – who can break it?
When melted it is softer than whey – who can break it?
Thus one cannot doubt the qualities it manifestly has.
For the time being you should study the time when you must
look upon the waters of the ten directions in the ten directions. This is not
the study of only when humans or celestials see water. There is the study of
water seeing water.
Because water cultivates and realizes water, there is the investigation of water expressing water. One should actualize the way through where self meets self.
One should advance on the living road where other meets other, and should leap out.
Seeing mountains and waters has differences depending on the
That is to say, there are those who see water as jewel necklaces; nevertheless, that is not seeing jewel necklaces as water.
As what forms would we see that which they take to be water?
Their jewel necklaces we see as water. There are those who see water as beautiful flowers; but they don’t use flowers as water. Ghosts see water as raging fire, as puss and blood. Dragons see fish palaces and pavilions.
Some may see water as precious substances and jewels, or as forests and walls, or as the natural state of pure liberation, or as the real human body, or as the characteristics of the body and nature of the mind.
People see it as water. It is an interdependency of killing and enlivening.
It is established that what is seen differs according to the
For the moment we should question this.
Do you say that in viewing one object the views are varied?
Do you say that it is misapprehending multiple forms as one object?
At the peak of effort one should exert further effort.
Thus cultivation and experience, clarification of the Way, cannot be either one or dual; the ultimate sphere must be a thousandfold, ten thousandfold.
In reflecting further on the basic meaning here, even though
the basic types of water may be many, it is as if there were no water of
However, the various waters according to the species (of perceiver) do not depend on mind, do not depend on body, are not born from actions, are not dependent on the eyes, do not depend on others – there is transcendence which depends on water.
Therefore water is not of the ranks of earth-water-fire-air-space-consciousness, water is not blue, yellow, red, white, black, and so on, it is not form, sound, odor,
flavour, feeling, phenomenon, and so on – yet nevertheless the water of earth-water-fire-air-space-consciousness is spontaneously manifested.
Being so, one can hardly say for sure what the lands and dwellings of the present are producers or products of.
To say they are resting in a sphere of space or an atmosphere is not the truth of self and not the truth of other – it is a proposal of the calculation of a small view. This statement comes from the idea that they cannot abide if they don’t rest on anything.
Buddha said, All things, ultimately liberated, have no
You should know that although they are liberated and have no bondage, all things dwell in their normative state. This being so, when humans see water, there is a way of seeing it as flowing incessantly.
That flowing has many kinds – this is one aspect of people’s perception.
It is said to flow through the earth, flow through the sky, flow upwards, flow downwards, flow through one bend, and flow in nine abyssal troughs.
Rising, it becomes clouds; descending, it becomes pools.
In an old Confucian book it says,
“The path of water is to become rain and dew when it goes up into the sky, to become rivers and streams when it descends to the earth.”
Even the saying of a worldly man was like this; for those who would claim to be descendants of the Buddhas and Zen founders to be more ignorant than a worldling would be most shameful.
What this says is that while the path of water is not yet consciously known by water, yet water does actualize it; while it is not that water is unaware, water does actualize its course.
The book says ascending to the sky, it becomes rain and dew – you should know that water ascends to any number of skies and upper regions and makes rain and dew.
Rain and dew are various according to the world.
To say there is somewhere water doesn’t reach is the teaching of the listeners of the small vehicle. Or it is the wrong teaching of heretics.
Water reaches even into the flames of fire, it reaches even into thoughts, contemplations, and discriminations, and it reaches into awareness of the buddha-nature.
Descending to the earth, it becomes rivers and
you should know that when water descends to the earth it makes rivers and streams.
The spirit of rivers and streams becomes wise people.
Now what ordinary fools and common types think is that water must be in rivers, streams, oceans. That is not so.
Rivers and oceans are made within water, therefore there is water even in places where there are no rivers or seas; when water descends to the earth it performs the function of rivers and seas, that’s all.
Also, you shouldn’t get the idea that in places where water has formed rivers or seas there can’t be worlds or buddha-lands there.
Even in one drop infinite buddha-lands are manifest.
So it is not that there is water in buddha-lands, and it is not that there are buddha-lands in water. Where water is has no relation to past, present, or future, no relation to the elemental cosmos.
Yet even so, it is the issue of the manifestation of
Wherever there are Buddhas and Zen adepts, there must be water; wherever there is water, Buddhas and Zen adepts must appear. Because of this, Buddhas and Zen adepts always bring up water as their body and mind, as their meditation.
Therefore to say water doesn’t rise on high is not in accord with either Buddhist or non-Buddhist classics.
The path of water is to permeate above and below, vertically and horizontally.
However, in Buddhist scriptures, fire and air rise above,
earth and water descend below. This above and below has a point to study.
That is to study the above and below of the Buddha Way.
That is to say, where earth and water go is considered below – it is not that below is taken to be the place where earth and water go. Where fire and air go is above – it is not that above is taken to be where fire and air go. Though the elemental cosmos doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with measurements of direction, nevertheless, based on the action of the four, five, and six major elements, we temporarily set up an elemental cosmos of locations and directions.
It is not that thoughtless heaven is above and uninterrupted hell is below – uninterrupted hell is the whole cosmos, thoughtless heaven is the whole cosmos too.
Thus, when dragons and fish see water as palaces, it must be like people seeing palaces. They cannot cognize or see them as flowing anymore.
If a bystander should tell them, “Your palaces are flowing water,”
the dragons and fish would be surprised and doubtful, just as we are when we now hear it said that the mountains are flowing.
Yet they might maintain that there is such an explanation of the balustrades, stairs, and pillars of the palaces and pavilions.
You should quietly ponder this treatment of the matter.
If you do not learn to penetrate freely beyond these bounds,
you have not been liberated from the body and mind of ordinary people, you have
not thoroughly investigated the lands of Buddhas and Zen adepts. Nor have you
thoroughly investigated the lands of ordinary people, and they have not
thoroughly investigated the palaces of ordinary people.
Though now in the human world they have deeply ingrained cognition of what is in the oceans and rivers as water, they do not yet know what dragons, fish, and so on perceive and know and use as water.
Do not ignorantly assume that what you perceive and know as water is used as water by all other species too. One should not linger only in the human realm – one should go on to study the water of the Buddha Way.
As what do we see the water used by Buddhas and Zen adepts – one should study this. One should also study whether there is or there is not water in the house of the Buddhas and Zen adepts.
Mountains have been the dwelling place of great sages since
beyond the past and beyond the present.
Wise people and holy people both have made mountains their inner sanctum, have made mountains their body and mind; mountains have become manifest.
Though it seems that so many great saints and great sages have gone into the mountains and gathered there, after having entered the mountains, there is not a single person who has met a single person – it is only a manifestation of the livelihood of the mountains. There are no further traces even of having entered.
In the time of gazing at the mountains while being in the
world, the crown and eyes are far different from the time of meeting the
mountains in the mountains.
The idea of not flowing, and the cognition and view of not flowing as well, could not be equal to the cognition and views of dragons and fish.
Humans and celestials find palaces in their own worlds; other species doubt this,
or may not even get to the point of doubting.
Thus you should learn about the saying mountains flow from Buddhas and Zen adepts – you should not give free reign to surprise and doubt.
Bringing up one, it is flowing; bringing up one, it is not flowing:
one time is flowing; one time is not flowing.
Without this exhaustive study, it is not the Buddha’s wheel of true teaching.
An ancient Buddha said, If you want to be able not to elicit
don’t repudiate the Buddha’s wheel of true teaching.
You should engrave this statement on your skin, flesh, bones and marrow.
You should engrave it on body and mind, object and subject;
you should engrave it on emptiness, engrave it on form.
It is engraved on trees and stones, on fields and hamlets.
Though mountains belong to the territory of the nation, they
are entrusted to people who love the mountains.
When mountains definitely love the “owners”, saints, sages, and those of exalted virtue are in the mountains.
When saints and sages live in the mountains, because the mountains belong to them,
the trees and rocks are abundant, the birds and beasts are holy.
This is because the saints and sages affect them with their virtue.
You should know that the fact exists that mountains like sages and saints.
Many rulers have gone to the mountains to pay respects to
sages and ask questions of great saints – this is an excellent example for past
When they do so, they pay respect to the saints as teachers, without following the ordinary laws of society. In the sphere of influence of wise rulers, there is no compulsion of mountain sages at all.
It should be obvious that the mountains are apart from human society.
In remote antiquity a chieftain went on his knees kowtowing to call on a sage in the mountains.
Shakyamuni Buddha left the palace of his father the raja and went into the mountains, but his father didn’t resent the mountains, nor did he suspect the people in the mountains who taught his son. Most of the Buddha’s twelve years of training were in the mountains. The beginning of his teaching was also in the mountains.
Truly even a supreme ruler doesn’t coerce the
Know that the mountains are not the realm of human society, not the realm of heavens.
One cannot know or see the mountains by the measurement of human thought.
If they did not take the flowing of the human world as the standard of comparison,
who would doubt the flowing of the mountains, or the nonflowing of the mountains?
Then again, since ancient times there have occasionally been
sages and saints who live on the water. While living on the water, they have
caught fish, they have caught people, they have caught the Way.
All of these are ancient traditions of life on the waters.
Advancing further, there should be catching oneself, there should be catching catching, there should be being caught by catching, there should be being caught by the Way.
In olden times the monk Tokujo one day left Yakuzan to live
on the river. Then he found the sage of Flower Inn River.
Why not catch fish, catch people, catch water, catch oneself?
Someone’s getting to see virtue and sincerity is virtue and sincerity; virtue and sincerity making contact with someone is meeting someone.
It is not that there is water in the world; there are worlds
in the realm of water.
And this is so not only in water – there are also worlds of sentient beings in clouds,
there are worlds of sentient beings in wind, there are worlds of sentient beings in fire, there are worlds of sentient beings in earth, there are worlds of sentient beings in phenomena, there are worlds of sentient beings in a single blade of grass,
there are worlds of sentient beings in a single staff.
Where there are worlds of sentient beings, there must be the world of Buddhas and Zen adepts – you should meditate on this principle very thoroughly.
So water is the palace of the true dragon. It is not
If you recognise it only as flowing, the word flow slanders water. That is because it is like insisting that it doesn’t flow. Water is just the true form of thusness of water.
The fact is that water is the quality of water. It is not flowing.
In investigating the flow of one body of water and investigating not flowing, the completed investigation of myriad phenomena suddenly becomes apparent.
In the case of mountains too, there are mountains concealed
in jewels, there are mountains concealed in marshes, there are mountains
concealed in the sky, there are mountains concealed in mountains.
There is study which conceals mountains in concealment.
An ancient Buddha said, Mountains are mountains, waters are
This saying does not say that “mountains” are mountains; it says mountains are mountains. Therefore you should investigate the mountains.
If you investigate the mountains, that is meditation in the mountains.
Such mountains and waters of themselves make sages and saints.
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