Zen Koan #29: Parable of No Water, No Moon – Buddhist Teaching on the Present Moment

Zen Koan #29: Parable of No Water, No Moon - Buddhist Teaching on the Present Moment Material development alone sometimes solves one quandary but engenders another. For example, certain people may have acquired wealth, a good edification, and a high convivial standing, yet ecstasy eludes them. They take slumbering pills and drink an extravagant amount of alcohol.

Something is missing, something still not consummated, so these people take refuge in drugs or in a bottle. It is when you do not feel successful that you put in the effort. As soon as you become attached to something, you lose the direction of the method. When you experience everything as equal, all distinctions will naturally disappear. You are definitely in this place and not some other. The realization of a koan is not just a cognitive understanding, and this naturally follows from the essential theme cited earlier that logic cannot be used to understand a koan. If you try to eliminate the difficulties, it would be like observing a pan of water. In fact, their efforts have only increased their mental vexations, and have created physical ones as well.

By practicing daily Zen Meditation and going on recedes, at least you are pumping the air into the tire to some extent. On the contrary, everything is there clearly, and in place.

Zen Koan: “No Water, No Moon” Parable

When the nun Chiyono studied Zen under Bukko of Engaku she was unable to attain the fruits of meditation for a long time.

At last one moonlit night she was carrying water in an old pail bound with bamboo. The bamboo broke and the bottom fell out of the pail, and at that moment Chiyono was set free!

In commemoration, she wrote a poem:

In this way and that I tried to save the old pail
Since the bamboo strip was weakening and about to break
Until at last the bottom fell out.
No more water in the pail!
No more moon in the water!

Buddhist Insight on Return to the Present Moment

In Zen Buddhism, you can practice with annoyance with your partner or your spouse in the present moment. Moreover, you can be as happy watching a sunset or taking a walk as having an overgenerous night out on the town because you know how to relate to those things. There’s a mythology of returning to the present moment in our country that is false. When you’ve gotten good, you can even try loving some of our politicians. The American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck writes in Nothing Special: Living Zen,

Most of our difficulties, our hopes, and our worries are empty fantasies. Nothing has ever existed except this moment. That’s all there is. That’s all we are. Yet most of us human beings spend 50 to 90 percent or more of their time in their imagination, living in fantasy. We think about what has happened to us, what might have happened, how we feel about it, how we should be different, how others should be different, how it’s all a shame, and so on; it’s all fantasy, all imagination. Memory is imagination. Every memory that we stick to devastates our life.

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