Floating Cloud or Ukigumo is FooYun in Chinese, embodying a philosophical point of view. As a cloud comes into existence then disappears, so too is life a floating cloud which becomes death. The mind, too, has thoughts that are like floating clouds that form and uniform. Our very flesh is a floating cloud that grows from nothing into something then falls back into the void.
Before the beginning we did not exist, then we existed, and finally, we became as we were before. If we are quiet within, we can experience the whole of this circle of existence and non-existence as a continuum, as though we are the empty space inside a closed circle, and not merely physical beings each with a specific beginning that proceeds in a straight line towards finality.
A floating cloud is anything, such as life’s crises and delightful surprises, that appear as from out of nowhere, and run their course whether pleasant or unpleasant. To see beyond the floating cloud of existence, beyond the body’s pleasures and pains, is to see beyond illusion to the true heart of reality.
Such is the intention of a Zen practitioner on the road to nirvana, difficult though it is not be distracted by the rewards and travails that continuously appear and vanish.
The floating cloud is also the abode of the gods of the Tao. Their Kingdom of Clouds is a mountainous retreat instantly perceivable as a divine residence, with sheer cliffs obscured by mist and cascading rivers and waterfalls that tumble into ancient forests.
The floating cloud as Chinese Eden embodies all of Nature as a reflection of a wholesome paradise so near to one’s vision that it seems as though we might reach out with an open hand and grasp the white mist and bright dawn, even though our hands cannot clutch light and mist, and the vision is only painted screen or a dream. And it is only by never grasping can that such a paradise will prevail.
I shall think of you in a floating cloud;
So in the sunset think of me.
~ Li Po