There was a great Zen Master who once said:

Before I began studying Zen, the world was simple and obvious; mountains were mountains and rivers were rivers. Then, when I became a student of Zen, nothing was as it was; mountains were no longer mountains, rivers were no longer rivers. Then, when I finally reached my place of final rest, mountains were mountains and rivers were rivers.

STOP I heartily encourage you to stop reading here and go meditate. However, if you insist on having this explained by someone who hasn't gotten there yet, read on.

This is a beautifully elegant expression of the naturalness and simplicity of living in the Zen way, and of the manner in which conscious thought and deliberate action melt away when set on the one true path. In the beginning of any man's life, he exists in a world which holds no secrets; life's object is no more than living, and he goes about his life with freedom and lack of care for meaning or future. However, we are tought in Buddhism that the world is an illusion; material objects are mere shades, and to put faith in them is self-deception and misery. Therefore, we search for true meaning elsewhere; we examine everything and find myriad shadows. The true master, however, lives with a grace that can only be demonstrated by one who knows the exact nature of the universe, and, having seen it for what it is, is able to deal with reality exactly as it is presented to him, devoid of pretense.

The repetition of the first phrase should be noted; even though it seems to be of the same nature as the third, it is not. It is, in essence, a paradox. The master does not advocate a return to childlike simplicity, but instead that the striving to understand fall away, revealing a far more mature simplicity, intrinsically forged by what has gone before.

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