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.”

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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