The Text of the Month No 6

By Jos Slabbert

Do you understand?

As the rivers solidify
and the mountains shift,
his mind moves
and the leaves rustle in the wind.

(The Tao is Tao, 18)


Explanation and comment

This poem seems deceptively simple, yet what it is saying is difficult to understand. It is almost as if its meaning lies just beyond the limits of language.

The poem is in fact describing a moment of enlightenment. At this moment, the enlightened person sees with great clarity, but his perspective is a timeless one. He realizes that he is part of a timeless movement. Past, present and future are rolled up into a single moment. He is standing there

As the rivers solidify
and the mountains shift.

He is totally aware of the transience of all existence. Everything is in perpetual movement and change, and he is an inseparable part of it.

His unity is total. He recognizes that everything is Mind. The dualistic world has finally disappeared. There is no subject and no object. No internal and no external. When the wind moves, it is his mind moving:

his mind moves
and the leaves rustle in the wind.

The leaves rustle because his mind is moving. It is the world of Zen, where everything is part of everything else, where the stones feel pain when you feel pain.

After this experience, he will never be the same again, even though he is still part of the same process and he has only discovered what has always been. His world is completely new, even though nothing has changed, for the Tao is still Tao.

The rivers will start flowing again and the mountains will again seem solid and static. But he has moved to a sphere beyond mere understanding.