The wave

Hokusai’s famous picture of the wave shows men and boats and Mount Fuji. The men and their efforts are details in the great surge of nature.

There are four special points from the Zen standpoint:

  1. Children think the wave is a thing, a separate body of water moving over the surface of the sea, and different from the other waves and from the sea itself. When they are taught to observe carefully, they find there is nothing to be distinguished as a separate wave5 the wave is a moving phenomenon in the great sea. It still makes sense to speak of a wave, but only as a theoretically separate entity.
  2. The wave is about to crash on the boats and on Mount Fuji.
  3. The wave cannot crash on Fuji because Fuji is far distant, though it looks as if it is under the wave.
  4. There is no paper in the boats, in the sea, on the mountain or in the sky. Search for it and it cannot be found. But they are all nothing but paper. In fact there is no movement, no distance, no wet or dry, no life or death.

Points (2) and (3) frequently come up in the ‘chakugo’ or Zen comments on the koan riddles.


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