‘Drops in the Waterfall’ | Selected Passages from Shunryu Suzuki

“I went to Yosemite National Park, and I saw some huge waterfalls. […] the water does not come down as one stream, but it is separated into many tiny streams. From a distance it looks like a curtain. And I thought it must be a very difficult experience for each drop of water to come down from the top of such a high mountain. […] And it seems to me that our human life may be like this. We have many difficult experiences in our life. But at the same time, I thought, the water was not originally separated, but was one whole river. Only when it is separated does it have some difficulty in falling. […]

Before we were born we had no feeling; we were one with the universe. This is called ‘mind-only’ or ‘essence of mind’ or ‘big mind’. After we are separated by birth from this oneness, as the water falling from the waterfall is separated by the wind and rocks, then we have feeling. You have difficulty because you have feeling. You attach to the feeling you have without knowing just how this kind of feeling is created. When you do not realize that you are one with the river, or one with the universe, you have fear. Whether it is separated into drops or not, water is water. Our life and death are the same thing. When we realized this fact we have no fear of death anymore, and we have no actual difficulty in our life. […]

We say, “Everything comes out of emptiness.” One whole river or one whole mind is emptiness. When we reach this understanding we find the true meaning of our life. When we reach this understanding we can see the beauty of human life. […]

To talk about it this way is quite easy, but to have the actual feeling is not so easy. […] When you can sit with your whole body and mind, and with the oneness of your mind and body under the control of the universal mind, you can easily attain this kind of right understanding. Your everyday life will be renewed without being attached to an old erroneous interpretation of life. When you realize this fact, you will discover how meaningless your old interpretation was, and how much useless effort you had been making. You will find the true meaning of life, and even though you have difficulty falling upright from the top of the waterfall to the bottom of the mountain, you will enjoy your life.”

Selections from pages 82-84 of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” by Shunryu Suzuki.

Here’s a link to the complete work: Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” by Shunryu Suzuki.

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