Excerpt About Mountain Metaphor
This point is illustrated in Buddhism by the saying, “First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, and then there is a mountain.” The usual understanding of this is centered on the wisdom of the nondual realization of presence, awareness, and emptiness. “First there is a mountain” refers to looking from the perspective of the individual, where regardless of whether we experience ourselves in a spiritual way or not, we perceive that there is a mountain. When we recognize “there is no mountain,” we are seeing the real nature of the mountain and of reality as emptiness. The mountain could be anything or reality as a whole; it could be replaced with your body, your thoughts, an apple, or the totality of the universe. This second phase means that we are seeing true nature as a simple emptiness. That is what is real and the mountain is an ephemeral mirage. The third phase, “and then there is a mountain,” refers to a mountain that is different from the first one because it is integrated into true nature. Here we perceive it as an empty mountain, a mountain of luminosity where the manifest and unmanifest are completely inseparable. In the second phase where there is no mountain, there is only true nature, and we are seeing the truth of true nature in its emptiness and transparency. In this progression, the mountain that then appears is true nature appearing as a mountain.