Listen to the River

Daofu said to Shibei, “As a student first entering the monastery, I implore you for instruction about the path of entry.”

When I lived with my teacher, she had a sign on her desk that said in big bold letters, “Be Teachable.”  It was a helpful reminder for me to listen to her and try to make sense of what she was saying to me, even if I didn’t understand it or disagreed at the moment.

Notice beginner’s mind in the above story.  “First entering the monastery” is not just this student, it’s all of us.  All of us need to bring our beginner’s mind to this moment.  This is the case whether we’ve been practicing for two weeks or twenty years.  Return to asking questions or being curious.  Practice as though this was the first time you have practiced meditation because it is.  This is “no self” in its practical application.  We change from moment to moment, so who we are now is different from who we were yesterday, or even a minute ago when we began reading.  This moment is totally new.  You are not the “you” of a split second ago, though in all appearances “you” seem to be the same.

What do you think Daofu says in response?  How would you respond to Daofu?  How would you offer guidance to someone imploring you for instruction?

Shibei says, “Do you hear the sound of the water flowing downstream over the weir?”

A weir, I learned recently, is a low-lying dam built across a river to raise the water level upstream.  At Tassajara where I trained for one year, the sound of the creek was deafening during meditation.  It’s the only thing one could hear unless a bell was being sounded.  It’s more challenging to hear the sounds of nature when we’re not down in a canyon or next to running water, but we can still do it.

The sound of the flow of water is an entry point to the Dharma.  When did you last hear the sound of flowing water?  Perhaps a few minutes ago when you turned on the tap or flushed the toilet?  But did you actually hear it or were you hurrying from one activity to the next, in unconscious mode?

“Do you hear the sound of the water” points to the importance of noticing the natural world all around us.  Can you hear the rhythms in the cricket sounds in the autumn?  One Zen Master was enlightened by these sounds.  Do you take time to notice the little flowers springing out from the earth?  They also make a sound, like little trumpets blaring. 

Daofu responds, “I hear it.”

Shibei says, “Enter through this.”

From this Daofu attained the entrance.

Wuzu Fayan said, “As a result of gaining the entrance one can freely move in all directions.  If you have not yet done so, don’t carelessly leave here.”

What’s the result of listening to nature?  You become one with nature.  You are nature.  You are the stream, the crickets, the train.  My mouth is your mouth.  This is, “To be one with the myriad things is to realize no boundary between self and other.”

Published by Daishin

Daishin Eric McCabe is a Buddhist monk. He teaches Soto Zen philosophy, mindfulness meditation, yoga, and calligraphy to people of all walks of life and spiritual paths. He was ordained in 2004 and given permission to teach in 2009. He is fully ordained in the Soto Zen tradition and is a recognized teacher both in the Association of Soto Zen Buddhists and in the Soto Zen Buddhist Association. Daishin undertook a 15 year mentorship with Abbess Dai-En Bennage of Mount Equity Zendo, located in rural central Pennsylvania. During this time he trained at various Soto Zen Monasteries in Japan. In France he trained with Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, practiced in California at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, and with Rev. Nonin Chowaney at the Nebraska Zen Center. He is a certified hatha Yoga teacher through Integral Yoga. Daishin has four years experience attending the spiritual and emotional needs of patients, family, and staff in a hospital setting, and three years experience giving spiritual direction and counsel to clients with mental health and substance abuse issues. He has ten years experience as a Guest Teacher and speaker at Buddhist meditation retreats, yoga centers, colleges, and multi-faith gatherings. Daishin studied at Bucknell University where he received a BA in Religion and Biology in 1995. He completed 5 units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Wellspan York Hospital in August of 2014, where he worked as a Chaplain in Behavioral Health, and in 2015 was granted by the Board of Chaplaincy Certification Incorporated the equivalent of a Master of Divinity. Prior to chaplaincy he taught meditation and yoga for two years to clients at White Deer Run, a drug and alcohol rehab in central PA. He presently teaches yoga at Broadlawns Medical Center to patients receiving mental health care. Daishin presently resides in Ames, Iowa with his wife and family.

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