Green, Flowing, Buddha Nature
On Dogen Zenji's SANSUI-KYO 山水經
The Spiritual Discourses of the Mountains and the Water
Citation on Green, Flowing, Buddha Nature
from the Introduction by Hubert Nearman, Shasta Abbey)
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In the present discourse, Dōgen takes up the difference between the general, conventional use of the terms ‘mountain’ and ‘(flowing) water’ and their special use by the Chinese Zen Masters for pointing to spiritual matters.

As previously indicated in notes to Dōgen’s earlier Dharma discourses, the term ‘mountain’ has several implications in Zen contexts. In this discourse in particular, ‘mountain’ is most often used as a descriptive epithet for one who is sitting in meditation, as still as a mountain among mountains (that is, one who is training among other members of the Buddhist Sangha), as well as for a wise and saintly person whose path has led him or her to seek a spiritual abode in a mountain, in both a literal and a figurative sense.

Hence, the Chinese Zen Masters are referred to as ‘mountains’, and because their training never comes to an end but is ever green, they are referred to as ‘verdant mountains’. And because they are not rigid or static in their practice, they are sometimes referred to as ‘flowing mountains.'

One of the meanings of ‘water’, in the Zen sense, is ‘the Water of the Spirit’, that is, Buddha Nature in general as well as one’s own Buddha Nature. In this translation, the use of this term is rendered as ‘the Water’ where context makes the meaning unambiguous. Someone’s ‘walking on the water’ is thus descriptive of that person’s doing [their] training and practice by following the ever-shifting, ever-flowing path of Buddha Nature.
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