Since Buddhism is all about being mindful of fundamental laws of nature, everything teaches the Dharma.
If we look carefully, we can find the entirety of the Buddhist Canon plus every commentary, every YouTube video or podcast, and every poem or essay (both classic and modern) in everything that exists—even imaginary things. It just takes a little learning and a lot of practice to see the Dharma at work (or play).
Each blade of grass teaches the Four Noble Truths, 12 Links of Dependent Origination, and the Three Marks of Existence. Each cloud speaks of emptiness, and the moon shines innate enlightenment as clear as a bell. Even the pain and the most destructive aspects of ourselves teach Dharma.
Each moment, each experience we have throughout our lives is a Dharma talk. We only have to know how to listen and, (as Ikkyu said), “Read the love letters sent by the wind and rain, the snow and moon.”
That’s also why Shunryu Suzuki said, “If you understand one thing fully, you understand all things fully.” We don’t have to make it complicated; all we need is just one thing. For most of us, it’s the breath because we not only have something reliable to focus on, but focusing on it can also ease our bodies and minds which makes it easier to stick with the practice.
I still think that studying the old books is important, but mostly as a tool to serve others and exhaust our clinging. When you turn your mind into a Buddhist encyclopedia, it gets harder and harder to cling to the written or spoken teachings as truths in themselves. Their real truth is in their intangibility, relativity, evanescence, and in how they cause stress when clung to.
I’m definitely not the first Buddhist nerd to write on this subject, and I won’t be the last. There’s nothing unique in this post, and it is itself just another jumble of words. The direct teaching here is that you’ll leave this page when you’re done reading, and that these words didn’t just pop out of nowhere but arose like echoes from my mind and yours. And when you close this page, the echo is gone. Wisdom is in letting go.