Water comes down like a curtain thrown from the top of the mountain. It does not seem to come down swiftly, as you may expect; it seems to come down very slowly because of the distance. And the water does not come down as one stream, but is separated into many tiny streams.
From a distance it looks like a curtain. And I thought it must be a very difficult experience for each drop of water to come down from the top of such a high mountain. It takes time, you know, a long time, for the water to finally reach the bottom of the waterfall. And it seems to me that our human life may be like this. We have many difficult experiences in our life.
…the water was not originally separated, but was one whole river. Only when it separated does it have some difficultly in falling. It is as if the water does not have any feeling when it is one whole river. Only when separated into many drops can it begin to have or express some feeling.
Before we were born, we had no feeling; we were one with the universe. This is called “mind-only” or “essence of mind,” or “big mind.” After we are separated by birth from this oneness, as the water falling from the waterfall is separated by the wind and rocks, then we have feeling. You have difficulty because you have feeling. You attach to the feeling you have without knowing just how this kind of feeling is created. When you do not realize that you are one with the river, or one with the universe, you have fear. Whether it is separated into drops or not, water is water. Our life and death are the same thing. When we realize this fact, we have no fear of death anymore, and we have no actual difficulty in our life.
~Shunryū Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, p. 82