Carefree Like a Cloud

Carefree Like a Cloud
Carefree Like Cloud

“A cloud never dies” is a saying I heard Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh speak on several occasions.  The cloud doesn’t go anywhere.  It just continues to transform:  rain -> soaks into earth, streams and oceans -> nourishes plant life ->  animals are nourished by water and plants -> water once ingested, becomes the activities and thoughts of humans.

Dogen Zenji says in “The Mountains and Waters Sutra”:

To say that there are places water does not reach is the teaching of the listeners of the Small Vehicles or the mistaken teachings of people outside the way. Water exists inside fire and inside mind, thought, and ideas. Water also exists within the wisdom of realizing buddha nature.

While clouds take on forms, they are not caught in their forms.  The strong wind blows them this way and that and they are constantly changing their shape, size, and color.  They are not bound by their previous shape.  This is the lesson of the cloud for us humans.  We humans get caught in the following:

Forms – fat, skinny, healthy, sick 

In our intellect – smart, stupid, average

In our age – old, young, middle age

In our ideas and perceptions – good, bad, neutral, ugly, beautiful


We are constantly judging and comparing ourselves with our previous self, the self we want to become, or the selves of other people, wanting to become something other than what we are today.  However, Enlightenment in the Soto school is impossible to attain by self-improvement.  While practice never precludes continual refinement of our actions and following the 16 Bodhisattva Precepts, it’s about accepting where and who we are in this moment, because in the next moment the strong winds of life change us (and/or our environment), just as the cloud transforms into a different shape, second after second.  Like the cloud, it is not us (= ego self) that changes ourselves, but life that transforms us.

Be carefree like a cloud.

The words Zen Fields and a signature stamp next to a spare ink pen outline of a meditator in a field


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