Blue Mountains Walking

Dharma Discourse by John Daido Loori, Roshi
Teachings of Mountains and Rivers, Part II

Featured in Mountain Record 25.1, Fall 2006

The Prologue

Inexhaustible are its mysteries. In order to realize its myriad forms and creations, one must love it utterly, study its essential spirit diligently and never cease contemplating it. Outside of this, there is nothing else.


The Main Case

Master Dogen said, “Master Dayang Shanggai addressed the assembly: ‘The blue mountains are constantly walking. The stone woman gives birth to a child in the night.’”…

“Because the blue mountains are walking they are constant. Their walk is swifter than the wind; yet those in the mountains do not sense this, do not know it. To be ‘in the mountains’ is a flower opening ‘within the world.’ Those outside the mountains do not sense this, do not know it. Those without eyes to see the mountains do not sense, do not know, do not see, do not hear this truth.” …

“Thus, the accumulated virtues [of the mountain] represent its name and form, its very lifeblood. There is a mountain walk and a mountain flow, and there is a time when the mountain gives birth to a mountain child. The mountains become the buddhas and ancestors, and it is for this reason that the buddhas and ancestors have thus appeared.”


The Capping Verse

in each tree, rock, bird and beast
I meet myself.
It is at once me,
and I am not it.

Throughout the history of civilization, people all over the world have regarded mountains as sacred places. Native Americans conducted rituals right here in these Catskill mountains. In Japan, there are numerous temples scattered among many sacred mountains.

The religious ascent is to the mountains. The Jains go to Mount Girnar; the Saddhus to Mount Kailash. Spanish monks hike up the precipice of Mount Montserrat; Greek Orthodox priests scale Mount Athos. The Buddha ascended Vulture Peak, Jesus gave his sermon on the Mount, and Moses received the commandments on Mount Sinai. Mohammed received the Qur’an in a cave on Mount Hira. Chinese Buddhists seek self-realization on the slopes of Wutai. In Zen, many Chinese masters we read about in koan collections are known by the name of the mountain on which they taught. In fact, we could say that every accomplished Zen master is the very mountain itself.

What is the magic and attraction of the mountains? Clearly there is something special in them or about them, because the same regard for mountains appears in various cultures throughout time.