And then what? How does this body of wisdom function so that what has been realized is brought to life? Zhimen says it’s, “A rabbit getting pregnant.” The footnote to that says, “Danger! A bitter gourd is bitter to the root, a sweet melon is sweet to the stem. If you make your living in the shadows of the light, then you won’t get out of Zhimen’s nest. If there is someone who can come out, tell me, is this the body of wisdom or the function of wisdom? I say this is adding mud to dirt.” Obviously “adding mud to dirt” is adding something to something of the same nature. Is “a rabbit getting pregnant” the same or different from “an oyster swallowing the bright moon?”
The student’s question is pointing to a very real aspect of spiritual practice. In the realization of the body of wisdom, we can make our living “in the shadows of the light,” as Yuanwu says, and never get out. In other words, this place becomes a trap, a place of attachment; it seems to be the light, but it’s only the shadows of the light. So the question, “How does this function?” becomes an imperative. How does it function when you leave the nest of emptiness, clarity and spirituality? In Zen we call the nest of emptiness “the stink of Zen.” It’s self-serving. It’s not helping or serving anyone. It’s not yet the path of the bodhisattva. How does the life that engulfs the myriad forms function? How does selflessness intermingle within the world of people, circumstances, conflicts and boundaries? Zhimen says, “A rabbit getting pregnant.” What is this? The great awakening is returning home to the place we’ve never abandoned, to live the life in which we’re always immersed, to be the true person who has never been separate.
The commentary says that in mid-autumn oysters float to the surface of the water, open their mouths and swallow the moonlight, thus producing a pearl. If the moonlight is not strong then there are few pearls. It says this is also how rabbits get pregnant, opening their mouths and swallowing the moonlight. Then it says, “The Ancient’s answer was free from so many concerns; [Zhimen] just made temporary use of these meanings to answer about the light of wisdom. Although his answer was this way, his meaning wasn’t in the words and phrases. It’s just that later, people will go to his words to make a living.” Zhimen is using these stories to help us awaken to wisdom and its activity. He is not concerned with oysters, oceans, pearls, rabbits or biology; this is not a metaphor. Thus, we can’t look to the meaning of the words or the stories to gain entry.