A Zen master was undertaking a journey along with one of his disciples. They walked for several hours before stopping for lunch and a rest. They sat in silence under a tree as they ate their simple meal of rice and vegetables. When they had finished eating the disciple said to the master, “can you tell me how I can find Zen?” “I want to learn so that I can be like you.” The master replied, “can you hear that?” “Can you hear the sound of the water from the stream running down the mountain?” The disciple could hear nothing, but he continued to listen until eventually he could just about make out the faintest sound of running water in the distance.
“Yes, yes, I can hear it master”, said the disciple. “Enter Zen from there”, replied the master.
They sat in silence for a while as the disciple focused his attention on the sound of the mountain stream. Eventually, he experienced a state of bliss, which remained with him as they resumed their journey. After walking for several miles, the blissful state wore off and the disciple was back to his normal unrealised self. They carried on walking in silence until, out of curiosity, the disciple asked, “master, what would you have said if I’d been unable to hear the sound of the stream?” “Enter Zen from there”, replied the master.
We can only awaken where we are, with the surroundings we have, in the present moment. We can go on pilgrimages, we can undertake all kinds of spiritual practise and we can read spiritual texts. But all of these are only relevant when we do not have the understanding to see beyond them. Ultimately, they are all only stepping-stones along the pathless path that leads nowhere. Nowhere = Now Here.