illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)
– Great King, how old were you when you saw the waters of the Ganges?
– When I was three years old my compassionate mother led me to visit the goddess Jiva. We passed a river, and at the time I knew it was the waters of the Ganges.
– Great King, you have said that when you were twenty you had deteriorated from when you were ten. Day by day, month by month, year by year until you reached sixty, in thought after thought there has been change. Yet when you saw the Ganges River at the age of three, how was it different from when you were thirteen?
– It was no different from when I was three, and even now when I am sixty-two it is still no different.
– Now you are mournful that your hair is white and your face wrinkled. In the same way that your face is definitely more wrinkled then it was in your youth, has the seeing with which you look at the Ganges aged, so that it is old now but was young when you looked at the river as a child in the past?
– No, World Honored One.
– Great King, your face is wrinkled, but the essential nature of your seeing will never wrinkle. What wrinkles is subject to change. What does not wrinkle does not change. What changes will perish, but what does not change is fundamentally free of production and extinction. How could it be subject to your birth and death?
— Śūraṅgama Sūtra
"The essential nature of seeing"… not to be confused with the essential nature of what is seen ;-)
photo: "Newly initiated Hindu holy women walk along the Ganges", © Sanjay Kanojia