A Zen’s-Eye View: We are all in the same state of impermanence

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Kuya Minogue is the resident teacher at Sakura-ji

Kuya Minogue is the resident teacher at Sakura-ji

In my last column, I suggested a mountain meditation to deepen understanding of what Zen master Eihei Dogen meant when he said, “The blue mountains are constantly walking.” Today I am moving on to the next sentence in Dogen’s essay, “Mountains and Rivers Sutra”. He writes, “Although mountains walk more swiftly than the wind, someone in the mountains does not realize or understand it.”

We are all in the mountains. That is, we are all in impermanence, because we all exist. We are all ”in being.” The pervasiveness of human misunderstanding is amazing to me. Men don’t understand women, Americans don’t understand Europeans, Israelis don’t understand Palestinians. All these misunderstandings are so consequential. They result in broken families, wars of words, and even in wars where powerful weapons destroy whole communities of people.

But from the standpoint of what Dogen is saying here, it is unbelievable that we do not understand, absolutely love and depend on each other because we are all the same. We all exist on the same mountain. When we think about that, how can we not embrace each other? We share so much simply because we all exist. We have the same problems, we know the same things, we don’t know the same things. We all have the same suffering — literally. We have the same suffering as all other people and cultures that share this mountain. We even have the same suffering as the trees and the foxes. We each need to find food and shelter. We all need connection and love. We all face illness, aging and death. How do we not look at one another and burst out with tears of gratitude that we are not alone here? We have each other. How wonderful!

And yet, there are all these misunderstandings. It’s quite tragic, isn’t it?

So Dogen says that we are all in the mountains, but when we are in the mountains we don’t know or understand how the mountains are changing or moving all the time, and how, at the same time, they are constant.

Why don’t we understand this? We don’t understand this because we are the mountain. We can only truly understand something from the outside. This is why Dogen, in another essay in which he teaches the practice of meditation tell us to “take the step backwards” and shine the light of awareness on the reality of our lives. When we take that step backwards, we can see that we all live on the same mountain and that if I harm you, I am harming myself. We can see that the mountain, that is, that our life is walking more swiftly than the wind.

Suggested practice: The next time you are in a disturbed state about something that another person or group of people has or has not done, take that step backwards and remind yourself that we all share the same suffering and we all want to find and realize freedom from that suffering.

Kuya Minogue is the resident teacher at Sakura-ji, Creston’s zendo. This column is part of a long essay on an essay by 13th century Zen master Eihei Dogen and is inspired by the teaching of Norman Fishcher. For more information, Minogue can be reached at 250-428-6500, and previous columns are available at www.zenwords.net.