In an undug well, water ripples from a stream that does not flow.
A person with no shape or form is drawing the water.
As I have been sitting with this koan, what comes to mind is the image of a very small lake, about three feet in diameter, with no bottom. There is no structure surrounding the water.
Searching for an image to go with the koan, I bumped into the Great Artesian Basin in Australia. It is the largest and deepest aquifer in the world, stretching over 660,000 square miles. It is 9,800 feet deep, in places holding an estimated 15,600 cubic miles of groundwater.
It is hard to imagine 15,600 cubic miles of water, almost as hard as imagining that we each contain the universe and thus we have no shadow or form.
If water reaches the ground surface under the natural pressure of the aquifer, it is called a flowing artesian well. The thing is, the water in the aquifer is not flowing, though it is a “flowing artesian well.” It ripples but does not flow. Interesting that Ikkyu’s study of himself led to observations of something paralleled in nature—and how often that is true.
We are each flowing Artesian wells of wisdom and compassion. Drawing the water requires no special effort; it is always readily available.
—David Weinstein, February 6th, 2024
David Weinstein Roshi, Director of Rockridge Meditation Community