Surfing and Dharma by Tarchin Hearn


People today seem to be tragically addicted to seeking future goals and results. We idolise planning and striving. It applies to virtually every realm of human endeavour. Results driven education, healing, eco-activism, industrial/military applications, business and so forth. Wise investment now in order to harvest a big gain later on. This way of living is so ingrained in our culture that as you read these words, some of you may think, ‘Yes, so what’s the big deal?’ We are immersed in media messages telling us that now isn’t good enough but tomorrow could be, if we just buy this and consume that. Sensible people worry about the future, put money into retirement funds, secure their old age, plan for tomorrow. Collectively we have invested in these dreams to such a degree that we admire those who have big plans, who talk up the future, who passionately worry about future outcomes.

Amazingly, it doesn’t even seem to matter if the whole thing ends up being nothing but hot air. Sadly this applies just as much, and sometimes even more, to religion and dharma and paths of healing and awakening. We are striving for health, or enlightenment, or God, or realisation of Buddha-nature. We are striving to be aware, to dwell in the ‘present moment’, as if the present moment had become a marketable commodity. We are so focused on the future, on imagined scenarios of attainment, or the fear of non-attainment, that we are constantly tripping over what is immediately under our own two feet. As we fall, we bruise and abuse and damage ourselves and others around us.

Sitting in the early morning light and contemplating these affairs, it occurred to me that here in Australia, surfing might be a beautiful hint at a different way of being. When surfing, what is important is not what is in front of us but what is welling up under us. We ride on a continual cresting wave of fluid change. Our skill has nothing to do with dreams of beach heavens and post-surfing parties and romps in the moon lit sand. Surfing skill has everything to do with exquisite sensitivity to water and wind, to muscle and felt body sense. We can’t control the wave. We learn to ride with what is. We do have the capacity to intentionally make adjustments in tune with the shifting of the world of this very moment. We are participants but not controllers. We are initiators but simultaneously we are part of a shaping beyond our control.

Resting in an ocean of living process. The waves, rolling across the surface, have been stirred by the collective winds of all the activities of all the myriad beings of this world. This is the ground of becoming, our ocean of becoming. As bodhisattva surfers, our senses are alert, refined and fully focused on each ephemeral nuance of now. Our bodies, these magnificent temples of co-operating cellular intelligence, are continually responding to the morphing of experience within and around us. They are shifting and changing, in ways that enable a miraculous integrated functioning of cells and organs and bodily systems. A homeo-dynamic process of healthy embodiment.

The wave we are riding is a tumbling of water molecules, uncountable moments of experience all rolling as one – the shape of our life. Molecules of inspiration; teachers and mentors, books and philosophies; encouragements to flower in wisdom and compassion. Molecules of talent and ability, a billion year flowing repository of ancestors and social unfolding. Lives interpenetrating lives, structurally coupled, collectively transforming. Currents of knowing, flowing with and through each other, tumbling madly with rivers and mountains and creatures and sky. And we rest in and on this measureless wave of becoming, savouring its uniqueness and constant freshness. Actually, we are the wave. Never departing from the surfing nowness. Flying in the spray. Pirouetting in the vastness. Thoroughly engaged. Pliably solid in this place of creative change. A la la hoh! You’d think that all surfing Australians must be enlightened!