Dogen was influenced by the long, harsh snowy winters of Echizen in northern Japan. After his stay there, he often spoke of snow.
Dogen was probably encouraging himself when he said:
"Even when the whole world is cold, wet and dark, we should think of how the ancient bodhisattvas practised, and renew our determination, instead of being overwhelmed and complaining about the weather."
In the Eihei Koroku, he wrote this poem entitled “Snow”:
In our lives, falseness and truth, good and evil merge,
While playing with the moon, despising the wind and listening to the birds.
For many years, I simply saw that the mountains were covered in snow.
This winter, I suddenly realised that snow makes the mountains.
Dogen says that mountains change with the seasons. The flowers in spring, the cuckoo's song in summer, the bright moon in autumn and the snow-covered mountain in winter are themselves the true reality of mountains. And our mental conditions caused by these changes are the true reality of our lives in that moment.
In this poem, Master Deshimaru explains: snow means that our lives are becoming complicated. It is a symbol of complication.
For a long time, I looked at the snow on the mountain.
For a long time, I thought that unhappiness and happiness were a dualism. For a long time, I ran away from unhappiness and sought happiness. Until today, I thought I should flee evil and seek good, flee bad things and seek good things. It's like the relationship between the mountains and the snow.
Now, I've understood that the snow becomes the mountain.
Happiness becomes unhappiness. Bad things become good things, bonnos become satori. There's no opposition.
And on 1st January, master Reikiku encouraged us to practise zazen whatever our conditions.
In everyday life, there are rainy days, windy days and stormy days, so we can't always be happy. It's the same with zazen. We don't just practise zazen when we're in the mood to practise, when we feel like doing zazen, when we're inspired. If we always wanted to choose when to practise, there would be no dojo or temple.
Zazen is not always the same; it is influenced by the time and space in which we are living at this very moment. Our practice is alive; it is practised through us here and now. If our common practice evolves, the sangha evolves. It's not a dead dinosaur. The real zazen is the zazen that is done through us.
As Dogen says, zazen is the practice of a day that is the road to nirvana. Eat, sleep, zazen, samu, zazen, repeat.
Continue the practice everywhere, without attachment to illusion or enlightenment, without concern for heaven or hell. Our practice is not a demonstration, or a form of intellectual appreciation. In life there are sunny days, rainy days and windy days, but whatever happens, simply set yourself up in zazen.
Maitre Reikiku Femenias