Green Koans Case 21: Blue Mountains Walking

Clark Strand

Dogen Zenji

Dōgen Kigen (1200-1253)

CASE #21:    Blue Mountains Walking

Preceptor Kai addressed the assembly at Mt. Dayang, saying, “The blue mountains are constantly walking.”

Later, Dōgen wrote: “To doubt the walking of the mountains means that one does not yet know one’s own walking.”

Preceptor Kai    Furong Daokai (1043-1119) was the seventh dharma ancestor of Dōgen in the Caodong lineage of Ch’an Buddhism.

Mt. Dayang   The site of an important Ch’an Buddhist monastery and thus the setting for many classical koans.

Blue mountains   Nearly all Ch’an monasteries were located in mountainous regions of China. Therefore monks on pilgrimage were often walking from one mountain to another. A monastery would often be named after its mountain, and sometimes a master might be named after it, too.

Dōgen   Dōgen Kigen (1200-1253) was the founder of the Soto School of Japanese Zen. Often considered the greatest philosopher of Japanese Buddhism, he was also a man of immense poetic and literary gifts. The current case is drawn from his “Mountains and Rivers Sutra.”

Ask someone, “What is your Original Face?” and they might not be able to tell you. Ask them how it got here, and everyone knows the answer: “It walked!”

As members of the subspecies Homo sapiens sapiens, everything has come down to us on two legs—our bodies, our outlook, our relationship to the world. And yet, even when we read books on archaeology and paleontology, it is hard to grasp the scope of a truth that big.

We got here by walking. Everything did. Dōgen is right. If we knew our own walking, we’d know how mountains travel. History walks on two feet.

Planes, bikes, and buses;
Motorcycles, boats and cars—
Very impressive!
But these aren’t how we travel,
Only how we get around.

Read all the Green Koans.

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