Mountains and rivers.

“Before I had studied Zen for thirty years, I saw mountains as mountains, and rivers as rivers. When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point where I saw that mountains are not mountains, and rivers are not rivers. But now that I have got its very substance I am at rest. For it's just that I see mountains once again as mountains, and rivers once again as rivers.”

— Ch'uan Teng Lu, The Way of Zen

Before we discover there is any other way of seeing, we take the world for granted. We make assumptions. We assume that how we perceive things is how things are. We assume they have intrinsic qualities. We assume that a mountain is a thing, with boundaries, separate from a river.

As we settle deeply into self-inquiry, and the quest for our True Nature, we discover the Truth about things as we perceive them, and about things as they are. We realise that a mountain is not a mountain, nor is a river, a river. As we come into clear seeing, we experience the world differently.

Initially, there is a “me”, a personal sense of self, the ego identity, perceiving the world as a collection of objects. But in the second instance there is no I present to separate the mountain and the river from the One seeing. All is seen, all is perceiving. I am the mountain, the river, the I, the seer and the seen.

But there is a third seeing. That from which one settles into the seeing. Becoming the seeing, rather than a seer seeing, one recognises that there are perceived objects in the world, and that is just fine. Any problem does not lie in us perceiving a mountain as a mountain, nor a river as a river. This world is a duality. Whilst we live here in human form, we must exist within the duality. Seeing, we see as non-dual seeing. Only awareness. But to walk in this world, to live in the play, the dream, we must know that these objects are present. Perceived as they may be.

I am the peaceful way, the river of life.

I am the mountain, that sits like rock.

I am the holder of Dharma, holding nothing.

— Bhagavati

If you have enjoyed this, you might enjoy to listen to Ganga talk about her own understanding of mountains and rivers, at the beginning of this video.



words : Bhagavati image : Jay Mantri