The Presencing of Nature

In his “Mountains and Waters Sutra,” Dōgen (1200-1253), the founder of Sōtō Zen in Japan, tells us that “The mountains and waters of the present are the presencing spoken of by buddhas long ago.” (而今の山水は、古佛の道現成なり). What does he mean by this? One clue is another statement by him:

To study the Buddha Way is to study the self,

to study the self is to forget the self,

to forget the self is to be confirmed by all things.

With this and related claims Dōgen taught that when we empty our minds and “forget” ourselves in meditation, we realize how things presence themselves (genjō) just as they are, in their suchness (Skt. tathatā).

That is to say, as we walk quietly in nature, letting go of our monkey minds and calmly paying attention to what is happening around us, each thing—in its exuberant flowering, leafing, gurgling, scatting, or chirping—is manifesting itself in its distinctiveness. And when we are filled by its presencing without any sense of separation, in a moment of non-dual experience, we are “confirming” our innate awakening.

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