Mountains are mountains


Thirty years ago, before I began the study of Zen, I said, ‘Mountains are mountains, waters are waters.’ After I got an insight into the truth of Zen through the instruction of a good master, I said, ‘Mountains are not mountains, waters are not waters.’ But after having attained the abode of final rest [that is, Awakening], I say, ‘Mountains are really mountains, waters are really waters.’

And then he asks, ‘Do you think these three understandings are the same or different?

Abe Masao, Zen and Western Thought

First, mountains are mountains. We experience the world as most do, as physical, as made up of separate beings and things, as existing in itself and we just happen to perceive it. 

Then, mountains are not mountains. The illusion is revealed. We may realize all as consciousness. As One. As the divine. We may realize that an overlay of thought creates the experience of separation and of physicality. It’s all the divine locally and teporarily taking itself as a separate being through holding certain thoughts as true. We are like Neo seeing the Matrix as a matrix and created by code. 

At this point, when we are relatively new to it, several things can go a bit haywire for us. We may feel we are going crazy, or we may blame and judge others for not seeing it, or we may go into nihilism and tell ourselves nothing matter and we can do what we want since it’s all illusion anyway. We can fall into some common pitfalls. We can contract some baby Buddha diseases. There is often some arrogance in this phase. (For me, it was that I could deal with anything. I got into and stayed in a bad situation because I told me I could deal with anything.) 

Then, mountains are mountains again. We have matured a bit in our realization. We have lived out some of our youthful follies in the awakening and embodiment process. Our lives now often seem very ordinary and ordinarily human, although also lived from wisdom and kindness. We are happy to follow convention apart from in the few situations where our heart, guidance, wisdom, and kindness says otherwise. 

We know our actions have consequences and may pay more attention to our actions and life in the world than ever before. If we have gone through some type of dark night, we have been more deeply and thoroughly humanized. All the while realizing even more clearly it’s all the divine and the play of the divine. 

Getting to know those you dislike

This is another one of the things that parents, in the best case, tell their children. If I enter a room or a group I’ll spend some time in, my mind tends to quickly sort people into “like” and “dislike” – at least as an initial map. I have made it a practice to get to know those I have put in the “dislike” category. To get to know them a bit as humans and some of their back story. It helps me to see them as humans rather than cardboard cutouts. It humanizes them in my mind. I may end up liking them or not, but that’s secondary. And, of course, they are “me over there”. This is just me as this human being getting to know me as that human over there. And it reflects how I approach and relate to parts of myself and my own experience I dislike. Do I agree with the initial dislike and try to avoid it? Or do I know it’s worth getting to know it? So if my mind tells itself “I don’t like that person” that’s a signal to get to know that person, at least a bit. Note: This happend in the most recent Vortex Healing course I attended. My mind immediately disliked a person there, and just by circumstances I ended up talking with her for a while, seeing her as a real human being, and finding sympathy for her. She is still not someone I would actively pursue a friendship with but my experience of her has changed. Read More