Calmly imagine the ceaseless practice that was happening on Mount Isan long ago. What I mean by ‘imagine’ means thinking about how it would be for us today if we were residing on Mount Isan. The sound of the rain deep in the night was probably not just of water washing over the moss, for the rain would certainly have had the strength to bore through boulders. On the snowy nights in the dead of winter, the birds and beasts must have been scarce indeed, and how much less would there have been smoke from man-made fires to acknowledge human existence! It was a way of living that could not have been tolerated, were it not for the Master’s ceaseless practice in which he made light of his life whilst stressing the Dharma. He was in no hurry to cut down the undergrowth, nor did he engage in cutting down trees to clear the land for building. He just continued his ceaseless practice and simply did his utmost to practice the Way. What a pity that an
authentic Ancestor who had Transmitted, and kept to, the True Dharma came to undergo such hardships in such precipitous mountains! It is said that Mount Isan had many ponds and running water, so there must have been thick ice and dense banks of fog. Most people could not have tolerated such a secluded life,
nevertheless Isan transformed it into the Buddha’s Way and explored Its innermost purpose. Today, we are able to learn of his expressions of the Way and Its purpose because of the ceaseless practice that he did. Even though we may not be listening with a casual attitude, we still need to recognize our indebtedness to his strenuous efforts in ceaseless practice. When we hear about what he did and imagine the hardships he faced, how can those of us today who are heartfelt trainees possibly fail to feel pity for him? Due to the transformative power derived from Isan’s ceaseless practice of the Way, the winds cease their howling, the world remains intact, the palaces and dwelling places of the celestial community are tranquil, and the homelands of human beings are preserved. Though we may not be direct descendants of Isan, he will be our Ancestor in spirit.
Later, Kyōzan Ejaku came and served as Isan’s attendant. Kyōzan had previously trained with his late Master Hyakujō. Though he was a veritable Shariputra with a hundred responses for every ten questions, for three years he trained under and attended on Isan while doing his utmost to oversee his own buffalo. His was a ceaseless practice that has become extinct in recent times and
is no longer seen or even heard of. In tending to his buffalo for three years, there was no need for him to seek for a well-put expression of the Matter from someone else.
Gudo Nishijima’s translation can be found here (scroll down to “ We should quietly imagine…” ): www.thezensite.com/ZenTeachings/Dogen_Teachings/Shobogenzo_2_NC.pdf