'Since the virtues of the mountain are high and broad, the spiritual power to ride the clouds is always mastered from the mountains, and the marvelous ability to follow the wind is inevitably liberated from the mountains.' Dōgen 1200-1253
21th April, 2021 Dear Everyone, In the last year of Shitao's life, he painted 'Riding the Clouds.' Most likely this is Mount Huang with peaks more that 3,250 feet high and the Xin'an River below with its headwaters in the Yellow Mountains. Here the clouds appear above the mountain peaks and swirl beyond the ridge line with the river flowing below. The painting feels mysterious and magical. There is little empty space; our eye is drawn to the interior landscape where someone on horseback is riding the boundless blanket of clouds. Her body similar in texture and color to the mountain landscape; it feels like she is riding on water. Beginning to reread Dogen's Mountains and Waters Sutra, I remembered seeing this painting. They seem to go hand in hand, compliment each other, and both speaking an eternal language. Dogen’s words aren't about mountains and rivers, they are mountains, rivers, clouds, horse, pines, the wind. Shitao’s life, beleaguered with unbearable difficulties, speaks a language that knits together with Dogen's writing-a life practice of paintings, calligraphy and poetry.
Perhaps it’s a good time to ask—Where is the mountain? Who travels the clouds? Last fall when climbing the steep peak at Boundary Creek in Stanley, Idaho and reaching a height at which I could no longer go beyond, I looked out across the valley toward the Sawtooth Range and said, ‘There are the mountains.’ Now I’m reminded of a passage in John Daido Loori’s book, The Way of Mountains and Rivers. Someone exclaimed, ‘Oh, there’s the mountain!’ Daido Roshi said, ‘That’s not the mountain.’ From the misty vista, there I was, riding the clouds, following the wind, and going everywhere. The moment the mountains and rivers manifest the great way, the Tao, we are mountains and rivers. bowing from Idaho, Jisen Reminiscences of Nanjing: Riding the Clouds by Stone Wanderer(1642-1707)| Freer Gallery of Art & Arthur M. Sackler Gallery