Few are the people
Who reach the other shore.
Many are the people
Who run about on this shore.
Dhammapada, v.85, translated by Gil Frondsdal
The image of crossing to the far shore of a river is a well-known metaphor for going from ignorance to complete awakening. But as the verse above points out, most of us are less interested in crossing over than we are with rearranging worldly conditions.
Through the eyes of an awakened one, we look like chickens scrambling about in a closed pen, with the fencing entirely made up of our wrong ideas about how things are. Through stillness, clarity can come; we can fly right over the fence. But we have to look with a different perspective from most of the people around us every day.
Words of the Buddha:
[The Buddha was asked:] “Tell me, dear sir, how you crossed over the flood.”
“I crossed over the flood without pushing forward, without staying in place.”
“But how, dear sir, did you cross over the flood without pushing forward, without staying in place?”
“When I pushed forward, I was whirled about. When I stayed in place, I sank. And so I crossed over the flood without pushing forward, without staying in place.” SN1:1, translate by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
This quote is like a Zen koan – not to be intellectually grasped, but held as a question. In my understanding, it starts with not forcing things and not withdrawing from them; always seeking the balance point of listening and acting with wisdom.
Do we really want to cross over to complete understanding? If yes, then we have to discover how, with hints but no clear map.