Date and Place Written: 1240, Kannon-dori-kosho-horin-ji temple (Fukakusa)
Fascicle number and English title in Hubert Nearman translation: 8. On ‘The Rippling of a Valley Stream, The Contour of a Mountain’
Fascicle number and English title in Nishijima/Cross translation: 9. The Voices of the River-Valley and the Form of the Mountains
Fascicle number and English title in Tanahashi translation: 10. Valley Sounds, Mountains Colours
Fascicle number in 12, 28, 60 and 75 fascicle editions: 25 (60), 25 (75)
Commentaries: Don’t Be A Jerk chapter 15, Receiving the Marrow chapter 4
Audio reading:


In this fascicle, Dōgen talks about achieving awakening through sensory experience.  He shares the stories of Layman Toba (who awakens after hearing the sounds of the river at night), Kyogen Chikan (who awakens on hearing a stone strike bamboo), and Reiun Shigon (who awakens on seeing peach blossom in full bloom). 

Dōgen laments the rarity of dharma students who genuinely strive for the truth and recommends making the following vow: “I hope that I, together with all living beings, may hear the right Dharma through this life and through every life hereafter.  If I am able to hear it, I will never doubt the right Dharma, and I will never be disbelieving.  When I meet the right Dharma, I will discard secular rules and receive and retain the Buddha-Dharma so that the Earth and sentient beings may finally realize the truth together.”

He goes on to say that we should not tell worldly people we have made vows to realize the truth.  Dōgen also laments that many are motivated by fame rather than a wish to see the truth.

Dōgen observes that it is usual to experience hardships that will test our resolve and that beginners cannot even imagine the Buddha’s truth but we should nonetheless endeavour to follow the way. 

It is pointed out that the form of the mountains and voices of the river-valley are none other than great buddhas and small buddhas.  The form of the mountains and the voices of the river-valley are always expressing the 84 000 things (i.e. the whole of existence) and realising this is seeing the body and mind of all of the buddhas. 

Kōans and Stories

“In the great Kingdom of Sung there lived the Layman Toba, whose name was Soshoku, and who was also called Shisen.  He seems to have been a real dragon in the literary world, and he studied the dragons and elephants of the Buddhist world [the old masters].  He swam happily into deep depths, and floated up and down through layers of cloud [was a great poet].  Once he visited Lushan.  In the story he hears sounds of a mountain stream flowing through the night, and realizes the truth.  He makes the following verse, and presents it to Zen Master Joso [Zhangzong Zhaojue, Jp. Shōgaku Jōsō; 1025-1091]:
The voices of the river-valley are the [Buddha]s Wide and Long Tongue,
The form of the mountains is nothing other than his Pure Body.
Through the night, eighty-four thousand verses.
On another day, how can I tell them to others?
When he presents this verse to Zen Master Joso, Zen Master Joso affirms it.”

Kyogen Chikan (Xiangyan Zhixian, 820-898) studied with Master Dai-i Dai-en (Guishan Lingyou, Jp. Isan Reiyu; 771–853).  Dai-i asks, “Without quoting from any text or commentary, speak a phrase for me in the state you had before your parents were born.”
Kyogen is unable to do this and cannot find the answer in his books, which he then burns.  He asks if the Master will give him the answer but Dai-i refuses, saying that in the end Kyogen would be glad he did not.
Kyogen goes to live in a hut on the remains of the hermitage National Master Daisho (Nanyang Huizhong, Jp. Nanyō Echū; 675-775) and grows bamboo.  One day a stone flies up and hits the bamboo and, on hearing it, he attains realization.  He says, “Great Master Dai-i, if you had explained it to me before, how would this thing have been possible?  The depth of your kindness surpasses that of a parent.”

“Zen Master Reiun Shigon [Lingyun Zhiqin, dates unknown] is a seeker of the truth for thirty years.  One day, while on a ramble in the mountains, he stops for a rest at the foot of a hill and views the villages in the distance.  It is spring, and the peach blossoms are in full bloom.  Seeing them, he suddenly realizes the truth.  He makes the following verse and presents it to Dai-i:
For thirty years, a traveler in search of a sword.
How many times have leaves fallen and buds sprouted?
After one look at the peach blossoms,
I have arrived directly in the present and have no further doubts
Dai-i says, “One who has entered by relying on external phenomena will never regress or falter.”  This is his affirmation.”

“A monk asks Zen Master Chosa Keishin [Ch’ang-sha Ching-t’sen, d868], “How can we make mountains, rivers and the Earth belong to ourselves?  The Master says, “How can we make ourselves belong to mountains, rivers and the Earth?”  This says that ourselves are naturally ourselves, and even though ourselves are mountains, rivers, and the Earth, we should never be restricted by belonging.”

“Master Ekaku of Roya, titled Great Master Kosho [Langye Huijue, Jp. Rōya Ekaku; dates unknown] is a distant descendant of Nangaku [Nanyue Huairang, Jp. Nangaku Ejo; 677-744].  One day, Shisen, a lecturer of the philosophical [Kegon] sect, asks him, “How does pure essentiality suddenly give rise to mountains, rivers, and the Earth?”  Questioned thus, the Master preaches, “How does pure essentiality suddenly give rise to mountains, rivers, and the Earth?”  Here we are told not to confuse mountains, rivers, and the Earth which are just pure essentiality, with “mountains, rivers, and the Earth.”  However, because the teacher of sutras has never heard this, even in a dream, he does not know mountains, rivers, and the Earth, as mountains, rivers, and the Earth.”

Important passages

“In the supreme state of bodhi, Buddhist patriarchs who transmitted the truth and received the behavior have been many, and examples of the past ancestors who reduced their bones to powder [doggedly pursued the truth] cannot be denied.  Learn from the ancestral patriarch who cut off his arm [Dazu Huike, Jp. Taiso Eka; 487–593]

“[W]hen the voices of the river-valley are heard, waves break back on themselves and surf crashes high into the sky.”

“Relying on the virtue and sounds of the river-valley and the form of the mountains, the Earth and all sentient beings realize the truth simultaneously [“I and all sentient beings realize the truth simultaneously” were said to be the words of Shakyamuni Buddha on awakening, according to Keizan’s Denkōroku], and there are many buddhas who realize the truth on seeing the bright star [as the Buddha did].”

“From the time when the Tathāgata [Buddha] was in the world until today, many people have seemed to consider that our concern in learning the truth is to get fame and gain.  If, however, they turn around and pursue the right Dharma, they will naturally attain the truth.”

“[I]n visiting teacher and seeking the truth, there are mountains to climb and oceans to cross.  While we are seeking a guiding teacher, or hoping to find a good counsellor, one comes down from the heavens or springs out from the earth [as in chapter 15 of the Lotus Sutra].  At the place where we meet with him, he makes sentient beings speak the truth and makes non-sentient beings speak the truth, and we listen with body and listen with mind.” 

“In meeting Buddha, we meet ourselves as Buddha and others as Buddha, and we meet great buddhas and small buddhas.  Do not doubt or worry about a small buddha.  The great buddhas and small buddhas referred to here are recognized, presently, as the form of the mountains and the voices of the river-valley.”

“At the time of right training, the voices of the river-valley and the form of the river-valley, the form of the mountains and the voices of the mountains, all do not begrudge their eight-four thousand verses.  When the self does not begrudge fame and gain and body and mind, the river valley and the mountains similarly, begrudge nothing.”

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