Snowflake Dharma
Winnipeg has experienced several snowfalls in the last few weeks. So we dutifully get dressed up in
our winter clothes for our date with the snow. This requires a snow shovel and a snow blower. Clearing
the streets, however, requires hours of work with the help of massive machinery. We are so
accustomed to this scene that we take it for granted. We even take the presence of the snow for
granted, as well.

But the other day my wife and I were clearing the snow when the snow shovel, the snow blower, the
large machines for the streets were all active on our street at the same time. It was quite a scene of
activity, including the persistently falling snow.

In the midst of all this a few snowflakes landed on my glove. I took a moment to examine them. What a
beautiful crystal. Each one unique, delicate. They slowly melted right there in front of my eyes as I
observed them. Then my attention returned to the din around me. What a contrast that was to the
reverie of snowflakes on my glove. Here is the big question: How can something as delicate as an
individual snowflake be so tough in large quantities? You would think that something so small and
fragile would be easy to remove from our driveways. Why does it take large machinery to move them
aside for traffic when each one by itself is so light an infant can carry it? Why you can even carry one
on the tip of your tongue! But as a community, they are very tough, as anyone with a backache can well

The snowflake on my glove also gave me even more to think about. Snowflakes are essentially water,
H2O. They were first water vapour. Our bodies are 60-70% water and give off water vapour all the time.
This rises into the air to join other forms of H2O to become clouds, then droplets, then full-blown drops,
then snowflakes. When we die all the water in our bodies become water vapour and are part of this
same process. Thus every drop of water in our bodies is a potential snowflake!

When the vapour becomes a droplets, has the vapour died? When the droplets become a cloud have
the droplets died? When the snow melts has it died? The snowflakes take part in the drama of birth-life-
death-rebirth over and over again. And so do we. Thus, in a real sense, we both die and we don’t die.
We share this experience with all of life on Earth. This life is impermanent, flowing, interrelated, re-
cycling, dangerous, beautiful, weak and strong, exciting, and boring. All this happens at the same time.
Like the snowflakes, we are fragile and beautiful, too. Nevertheless, as a Sangha we can be as
formidable as the Snowflake Sangha piled high on our lawns.

Yes, we can understand the Dharma from the life of a single snowflake. The Snowflake Dharma is our
Dharma. The next time you grab your show shovel, observe the snowflakes closely---no better yet,
catch one on your tongue. What a real taste of Dharma that would be!

Sensei Ulrich

January 20, 2013