In the stream

by Eihei Dogen

English version by Steven Heine
Original Language Japanese

In the stream,
Rushing past
To the dusty world,
My fleeting form
Casts no reflection.

-- from The Zen Poetry of Dogen: Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace, by Steven Heine

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

I really like this short poem by Dogen... and it's been too many months since we last had a selection by him.

In the stream,
Rushing past
To the dusty world...


The "dusty world" is daily world, the world of objects and experiences. It is dusty because it isn't swept clean; that is, we tend not to see existence in its luminous purity. We see the surfaces. We don't even see that, actually. We see our thoughts about the surfaces. That's what the dust is, the accumulations of assumptions and projections that cover the world and prevent us from seeing directly.

My fleeting form
Casts no reflection.


In the ecstatic state, the psychic tension that you normally call yourself disappears. Any action you engage in is not personal, not an creation of your personal will; it is just a part of the flow of movement you witness. Your sense of your self is "fleeting," ghostlike, a mere idea. It has no lasting stamp upon the flow of being; it "casts no reflection."

This is not a negation of existence, it is a merging with Existence... a beautiful state of supreme psychic rest yet also expansion.



Recommended Books: Eihei Dogen

Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter The Zen Poetry of Dogen: Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library) The Soul is Here for its Own Joy: Sacred Poems from Many Cultures





In the stream