Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The matter we are made of is as old as the universe, and yet because the life cycle of the longest lived cells in our bodies is seven years, we cannot be older than that. We are at the same time young and ancient, growing older while continually being renewed.

As such we are part of the dragon of change, our lives like waves in the waters of an ancient sea, rolling forward with a momentum not our own. Zen master Dongshan put it like this:

It is now me, I now am not it.
One must see it this way…to merge with all that is.


But leaving aside the matter of physical existence for the moment, what is “seeing it this way”? What eyes besides these have we to see it with?

At the very least we have sensory experience and its echo in our memories, or perhaps its resonance in our beings. But who is it that actually remembers? Zen masters Huineng and Nanyang once said:

Senses discerning objects are not consciousness.


True seeing has no emotional consciousness or binding attachments.


So whatever it is within us that remembers, expresses, interacts with the world, it is free by nature, having “no binding attachments”.

Perhaps we can think of our lives as notes held in some great song, or melodies carried by the supporting harmonies of all the living, whether through rests (when we feel alone) or modulations of key (when all is in flux around us) as our dissonances (conflicts and growth) are worked out to find resolution.

If so, we are anything but alone. We are profoundly connected, or boundless (another way to translate “shunyata”, the Sanskrit word for emptiness). Two ancient Buddhist scriptures put it this way:

Rivers, birds, trees and groves
all invoke the Buddha and the teaching.

Infinite Light Scripture

Lands teach, beings teach,
all things in all times teach.

Flower Ornament Scripture

So we hear through our physical beings what “all-that-is” perpetually says of itself, but we still see it through our own eyes, our own narratives, the habitual thought patterns our minds create to deal with the sheer immensity of existence. Zen master Dongshan once said:

When you hear the sound with your eyes then you’ll know.
Even if you yourself don’t hear…you shouldn’t hinder that which does.


So narratives can be a hindrance, but they can also be eye opening; they may also be individual or societal. They might aptly be compared to Indra’s net: an infinitely large interweaving of reflective jewels that each imperfectly reflect all the others. If so, then where is our grounding in all that is seen?

Perhaps the only true seeing is seeing as part of the dragon of change, with our own eyes and through the eyes of others. Perhaps it is in the humility of listening to every perspective, no matter how small, while thinking in accord with the heart of “all-that-is” through a practice of compassion…

Grounding, sanity, compassion are only found in the seeing of oneness.

What about you? Have you really seen the world of which you are part?

Poet; writer of imaginative fiction; lover of works of ancient wisdom and myth, explores the intersection of wisdom, poetry and imagination. Follow @CaelanRowan

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