“Sakyamuni Buddha said:
It is as if a person who has clouded eyes
Sees flowers in space;
After the sickness in their clouded eyes is cured
The flowers in space vanish.
No scholars have clearly understood what was being said here. Because they do not know what space is, they do not know what flowers in space are. And because they do not know what flowers in space are, they do not know who has clouded eyes, they cannot decide who has clouded eyes, they have not met someone with clouded eyes, and they have never experienced clouded eyes themselves. On meeting a person who has clouded eyes, we can come to know what flowers in space are, and then we can see flowers in space.
Once we have seen flowers in space, we can also see how flowers in space vanish. The idea that once flowers in space vanish they will never reappear is a small belief. But if we don’t see flowers in space, what is there to see? If you only know flowers in space as something to get rid of, then you will never come to know the profound matter that follows from flowers in space, or the process by which they germinate, blossom, and fall free.
Among the scholars of the day, most think of space as the sky – the place where yang-energy resides, and a void in which the sun, moon and stars are suspended. For example, they probably think that flowers in space refers to colourful shapes floating along in a clear sky like clouds; like floating blossoms being blown here and there by the wind. They do not realise that the constituents of all created things and the things created by them, all that is known in the Universe: our original state of balance, our original nature, and so on, are all flowers in space.
Furthermore, they do not know that the constituents of all created things exist because of those things, and they do not know that the material world exists stably because of the existence of the real things in it. They only think that real things exist because of the material world they are in. They understand that flowers in space exist only when eyes are clouded, and do not see the truth that it is flowers in space that cause clouded eyes to exist.
Remember, as long as you are following the Buddha’s way, when your eyes are clouded, you realise your original nature, you realise something subtle, you are a buddha, a person of the three worlds, transcending the state of buddha. We should not be as stupid as to believe that clouded eyes are to be avoided and that reality is to be found somewhere else. That is a restricted view. If clouded eyes and flowers were delusions, the person attaching to that wrong view must also be a delusion, and the attachment must be a delusion. If all is delusion, we can never establish anything true. If we cannot establish what is true, there is no way that we can assert that clouded eyes and flowers are delusions.
When our realisation is clouded, all of the constituents of our realisation are decorated with clouds. And when our delusions are clouded, all the constituents of our delusions are decorated with clouds. For now, let us say that when clouded eyes are balanced, flowers in space are balanced, and when clouded eyes do not appear, then flowers in space do not appear. When all things show themselves as they are, then clouds and flowers show themselves as they are. This is not in the same dimension as time passing from past to present to future, and is not a situation that has a beginning, middle, and end. It is not like a situation that arises and passes; it is the very cause of the arising and passing – flowers arising in space and passing in space, arising in clouded eyes and passing in clouded eyes, arising in flowers and passing in flowers. All other times and places are also like this.
There may be many different ways of seeing flowers in space. There is seeing with clouded eyes, seeing with clear eyes, seeing with buddhist eyes, seeing with the eyes of our ancestors, seeing with eyes of the truth, and seeing with blind eyes. There is seeing with the eyes of three thousand years, seeing with the eyes of eight hundred years, seeing with the eyes of hundreds of eons, and seeing with the eyes of numberless eons. Although these are all ways of seeing flowers in space, there are also many kinds of space, and many kinds of flowers.
When we hear that space is originally without flowers, if we understand it to mean that the flowers that now exist in space were not there originally, our viewpoint is narrow and limited. We should move forward and take a more profound view. An ancestor said “What appears are never flowers.” And the real meaning of his words is that flowers have never appeared, that flowers have never disappeared, that the word “flowers” never captures flowers, and the word “space” never captures space. And we should not play around with discussions of whether flowers exist in space or whether flowers do not exist in space, mixing up before flowering and after flowering at random.
“all things in the Universe are showing their real form. All things in the Universe show their flower-form, and all things, those we know and others beyond our imagination, are flowers in space and their fruits. And experience shows us that those flowers are tangible, just like the blossoms of apricot, willow, peach and plum trees are tangible.
Maybe we could also say “As soon as you recognise that the flowers in space are actually in your eyes, all the clouds instantly fall to the ground,” and “If space had its own eye, all the clouds would instantly fall to the ground.” This being so, the word clouded, the word eyes, and the word space all describe Zenki [‘total activity’, or ‘workings of the universe’]. And the phrase instantly fall to the ground suggests the thousand eyes that make up the body of Bodhisatttva Avalokitesvara. In sum, whenever and wherever eyes exist, there we will find flowers in space, and flowers in our eyes, but we say that these flowers in our eyes are in space.
Zen Master Sekimon Etetsu lived in Great Sung dynasty China in a temple on Ryozan Mountain. One day a monk asked him, “What is ‘the jewel in the mountain’?” What he is actually asking here is “What is buddha?” or “What is the truth?” The Master replies, “Flowers in space unfold on the ground. Throughout the whole of this land, there is no gate to our search for the truth.” Other descriptions of flowers in space can never match up to this.
All events happen on the ground; that is where they unfold. Just at this very moment there is a vast ground on which everything is unfolding; everything opens on this vast ground. The words “Throughout the whole of this land, there is no gate to our search for the truth” don’t mean that, since there is no gate we are unable to look for the truth; they mean that when we look for the truth, there is no barrier. Flowers in space open on the ground, and this vast ground itself depends on the opening of flowers. The principle that we need to recognise is that both the ground and space are flowers in space unfolding.”