Mountains & Waters Sutra

White Pine, lead and paint

2,000 years ago off the shores of Shantung Province, China, obscure Chinese legends describe five holy islands whose peaks soared thousands of feet above the
ocean. And upon which the islanders lived in a paradise of wealth and plenty.  It was said that these islands were floating rather than attached to bedrock.

On December 18, 1240, Buddhist Zen Master Dogen delivered a sermon, (Sutra) to his students in his Japanese monastery; part of which is quoted below:

“Mountains and waters right now are the actualization of the ancient Buddha way.  Each, abiding in its phenomenal expression, realizes completeness.  Because mountains and waters have been active before the Empty Eon, they are alive at this moment.  Because they have been the self since before form arose, they are emancipation-realization. Because mountains are high and broad the way of riding the clouds is always reached in the mountains; the inconceivable power of soaring in the wind comes freely from the mountains. The green mountains are always walking.  Mountains do not lack the qualities of mountains.  Therefore they always abide in ease and always walk.  You should examine in detail this quality of the mountains walking. Mountains’ walking is just like human walking.  Accordingly, do not doubt mountains walking even though it does not look the same as human walking.  The Buddha ancestors’ words point to walking. This is fundamental understanding.  You should penetrate these words. You should know that ‘eastern mountains traveling on water’ is the bones and marrow if the Buddha ancestors.  All waters appear at the foot of the eastern mountains.  Accordingly, all mountains ride on clouds and walk in the sky.  Above all waters are all mountains.  Walking beyond and walking within are both done on water. All mountains walk with their toes on all waters and splash there. Thus in walking there are seven paths vertical and eight paths horizontal.  This is practice-realization.”

Mountain and Water Sutra is my illustration of a unique perspective of Asian and Zen Buddhist thought.

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