Watching the moon

at dawn,

solitary, mid-sky,

I knew myself completely:

no part left out.


   -Poem by Izumi Shikibu (974-1034) from The Enlightened Heart, Stephen Mitchell (Ed.), Harper & Row ,1989.


    Shikibu's experience is not one of looking at the moon which then triggers some kind of internal enlightenment experience.  Rather, she knows herself completely in the very act of seeing the moon, before reflection. In the first instant of seeing the moon, this happens to everyone, without exception, Zen master or not.  It's just that for most of us, a cloud of thought, of concepts like inside-outside and here-there, quickly obscures the experience.

    Joshu Sasaki Roshi has a koan for his students:  "How do you realize your true nature when you see the full moon?".  How does one work on this koan? ........Zazen,....zazen, zazen, zazen.  With the practice of zazen, we become more comfortable with a mind that is not thinking, that is empty, receptive.  Then just look at the moon.  If you are thinking, "I'm going to look at the moon now. There it is.  OK, how I am realizing my true self ?",  you will completely miss it.   If you endeavor to lookatthemoonrealfastbeforethinking!!, you will miss it.

    There is an expression with great Zen implications, "catching your eye".   Just let the moon catch your eye, catch all of you, "no part left out" as the poet says.  Embrace the moon as it grabs you by the ears, and yanks you into union.  .... In that union, you will know your true nature, and also the moon's true nature, and that they are the same.


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