Zen master Dogen taught that the practice of zazen is like a circle. Each time we take our seat in meditation we are taking our place in a circle with all others who practice and have practiced, including the ancients and the Buddhas. The aborigines called us moderns the “line people” because in our progess madness we have forgotten that life is a circle–and to the aborigines that we are not just linked with other humans but with everything alive. Indeed, we will be breathing in air that includes water and other elements that existed in Neolithic times in China, when the first Taoists studied the way the Yellow River flowed. Nothing remains the same yet none of the elements that make up this world disappear completely. The ancient Chinese Taoists read the river like a book. They made notes about it in the straight and wavy lines of “Water Script.” This became the straight and broken lines of the hexagrams that make up the I Ching: The Book of Changes. Everything changes. Yet, amazingly, we breathe the same air made up of the same elements that have been here since the world began. We live in a circle with the ancients, with the animals, with all life.
Taoism teaches people to be like water, without ego, intention, fixed characteristics. It teaches people to be like water and not avoid “the low places,” humbling experiences, pain. At the time, I longed to be more dramatic, more memorable, less, well, wishy washy. Now I wish to be able to be like water. which…to come full circle to Dogen’s Zen. Who I really am is not dependent on mind, nor body, nor karma, is dependent only on its own nature…is liberated.