Zen and Ice

Without water no Buddhas! 


Zen Master Hakuin says: ‘All beings from the very beginning are Buddhas, it is like water and ice, without water no ice, without living beings no Buddhas’. This suggests that metaphorically living beings are water and the Buddha ice. In one way this is appropriate because liquid water is the general case, the form we normally find, and ice is a special case under particular conditions. A Buddha is a special case of a sentient being, a sentient being who is awake and knows who they really are. However, there is much to be gained from reversing the metaphor. We are ice, and the Buddha is water that flows. We are made up of that miraculous essence of conscious life – water or Mind in its universal sense. However in us this essence has become frozen. It appears to be a solid. It appears to be quite different from the flowing stuff of water. However, in truth this is not so. Ice really is water, though and through. There is nothing else there except water. Its nature is to flow. To freeze it requires the special conditions of deluded mind, mind that cannot see the same essence in both water and ice, mind that grasps them as two different substances even if it knows rationally they are the same element. To practise is to unfreeze the mind.

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