“At first, I saw mountains as mountains and rivers as rivers. Then, I saw mountains were not mountains and rivers were not rivers. Finally, I see mountains again as mountains, and rivers again as rivers.”
Zen is filled with sayings such as this, which have different interpretations when viewed from different stages of awareness.
In the beginning, we tend to view and interpret our environment simply as objects with us as the subject. At that stage, mountains and rivers are objects with us as the subject. At that stage, mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers.
Next, when we recognize the essence of everything is nothingness, mountains and rivers are recognized as nothingness. At that stage, one would say mountains are not mountains and rivers are not rivers.
Finally, it becomes clear neither statement is correct on its own, but both statements are correct together. Truth is the recognition that neither the relative nor the absolute are independently “real,” but the two halves united in their essence are reality. That is why non-duality is described as not two and not one. It is the reunion of every pair of opposites that renders them non-dual.
Love, Bec and Steve