Thursday, December 07, 2006

No Water, No Moon

The nun Chiyono (Mugai Nyodai, 1223-1298) studied and meditated for years, most notably under the venerated Zen master Wu-hsueh Tsu-yuan (Bukko, 1226-1286, founder of Engakuji temple, on the ultimate question of existence, but was unable to reach the far shore. The more she longed for Enlightenment the further off it seemed. But one moonlit night she was carrying an old bucket filled with water from the well that eventually came to bear her name, and as she walked she noticed the full moon reflected in the pail of water. As she continued along the path the bamboo strip that held the pail staves broke. The pail began to come apart, the bottom broke through, and the water disappeared into the soil beneath her feet, the moon's reflection disappearing along with it. In that moment Chiyono realized that the moon she had been looking at was just a reflection of the real thing ... just as her whole life had been... she turned to look at the moon in all it's silent glory, and ...that was it. Chiyono herself disappeared. She was NOT ... and what IS, was. Afterwards she wrote the following: "This way and that way I tried to keep the pail of water together, hoping the weak bamboos would never break But suddenly the bottom fell out: no more water no more moon in the water and emptiness in my hand!"


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