The Way things Are

The sound of the valley stream
is the voice of Gautama Buddha.
The forms of the mountains
are his perfect body.
Throughout the night countless poems,
but the next day,
how do I convey them to others?

This poem is from The Sounds of Valleys and the Forms of Mountains, a chapter of the Shobogenzo by Zen Master Dogen. The poem speaks of how nature ‘speaks’ when we are full ready to hear. This is possible because of the Buddhist teaching of the fundamental non separation of ear and sound, mind and matter.

It dawned on me why I was so caught up in the film about the Giant Hornets and the honey bees the other day. I remembered a short poem I’d written early in life which started, Bee and me we are One! Well, it was a start! I had no religious context through which to understand the sense of unity I experienced while watching a bumble bee one idle summers day. The impression however was a lasting one.

It’s not unusual for people to speak of a profound sense of unity they felt with existence while out in the wilds, or elsewhere. Very often people spend their lives trying to find an explanation for such experiences. Some take up a formal religious practice and realise a window onto the way things are opened briefly. They can then let go and move on.

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2 thoughts on “The Way things Are”

  1. I love to be out walking in the country side and yes I can think of places in Northumberland and Cumbria where it seems easier to hear nature speak. Then I ask my self but how natural is this landscape? And, is the city from which I have just traveled and to which I will need to return any less natural? Is what we tend to think of a natural that which looks as if the hand of man’s thoughts has had little role? I would like to think that maybe I will have the faith to keep practicing and some day be able to get as much from being stuck in the trafic as I do from the hills.
    But just what is it that we see to be so beautiful in those hills?

    Thanks for a posting that seemed to hit the spot as I struggle to sit with an open mind.

  2. Dave,
    Absolutely! That little old word ‘natural’ has a lot to answer for. I would use ‘the material world’ more readily than ‘nature’ actually.

    Talking to one of the monks on the matter of sights and sounds being windows on the way things are he spoke of looking out across the roof tops in Nottingham and being moved in that ‘can’t quite put your finger on it’ way. He said, ‘I knew everything was it it’s right place’.

    Beauty is of course a highly subjective matter. Thinking about it I remember being entranced by the sight of grass, or was it wild flowers, forcing there way through the cracks in the pavement in Reading, Berks. when I lived there. All in the eye of the beholder I guess…
    Thanks for your contribution.

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