That sounds like one of those Zen sayings, obscure yet profound. I recognize the truth in it but can’t quite pin it down, Yesterday morning I caught a glimpse. Looking out the window I saw that the ground was wet. Reasonable to assume that it had rained during the night — so far so good. Instantly my mind went to work, personalizing the observed phenomenon. Ahh, how wonderful, rain! This’ll be good for all the plants in the new garden. It’ll save me from having to water them by hand, having to use precious (and expensive) water from the tap. In short, I was pleased and relieved.
A little later a call from friends who were camping. Did you hear that rain last night? What a mess. We left clothes outside and didn’t dig a trench around the tent. Everything got wet. If this doesn’t let up, we’ll have to come home. The kids are disappointed. Same rain, different reaction.
How many times in a given day do react to things that “just are” according to my personal liking and disliking? How much misery do I cause for myself and others? Right now, for instance, the sun’s come out, heating the morning and drying out the garden’s earth. At the same time, it promotes growth in the very plant that need the water. Rain is ran, sun is sun, no more, no less — and then the mind attaches value and seeks meaning and things get distorted. There’s this stanza in an age-old Zen chant:
For things are things because of mind
as mind is mind because of things.
These two are merely relative
and both at source are emptiness.