Posted inArt and Poems, Dogen, Other Teachings

Fish Swim and Birds Fly, from Genjokoan

July 8, 2016

16761570455_a9e3260464_zFish swim the water and however much they swim, there is no end to the water. Birds fly the skies, and however much they fly, there is no end to the skies.

Yet fish never once leave the waters, birds never forsake the sky. When their need is great, there is great activity. When their need is small, there is small activity.

In this way, none ever fails to exert itself to the full, and nowhere does any fail to move and turn freely. If a bird leaves the sky, it will soon die. If a fish leaves the water, it at once perishes.

We should grasp that water means life (for the fish), and the sky means life (for the bird).  It must be that the bird means life (for the sky), and the fish means life (for the water); that life is the bird, life is the fish.

We could continue in this way even further,  because practice and realization, and for all that is possessed of life, it is the same.


From The Heart of Dogen’s Shobogenzo, Suny Press, 2002
Norman Waddell and Masao Abe, translators

Image: Fish, by John Perry, CC BY-SA 2.0, from
Featured Image: Drafting, by Steve Corey, CC by-ND 2.o, from

footer support banner image

Support Mountain Cloud

You can show your gratitude for Mountain Cloud events, retreats, podcasts and other teachings by making a one-time gift, or by becoming a supporting member.

Donate to Mountain Cloud Become a Member