In this exchange between Xuefeng and Sansheng, we're witnessing an expression of their vows. Although in some ways the question that Sansheng is asking Xuefeng speaks to our desire to understand our supposed future, it can also be appreciated as a question about our life right now. Sansheng is asking when an enlightened being, the golden fish, has liberated itself, what does that enlightened reality look like? It's not an idle question, it's a question of tremendous importance to us. But the question of where this path is leading us can be appreciated by the understanding that we have of our vows. Your relationship to your vows right now is already defining everything that you need to know about what this will look like when it is completed. What it will look like is a completed vow. It will be nothing but a life lived as that vow itself.

Shakyamuni Buddha said, "The true dharma body, as it is, is open sky. In response to things, forms appear. Thus is the moon in the water." Dogen, commenting on that, says that, " 'Thus' is 'exactly, precisely.' " We think that "exactly, precisely" is something that can be pinpointed and located. That's not what it means. This precision and exactness that we're speaking about is so precise and exact that it cannot be measured, it cannot be located. It's like you're walking over a meadow filled with freshly fallen snow and a flicker of light hits your eye, but you can't say where the light is coming from, where the source is located. It's as precise as the hazy moon of enlightenment, where you can't possibly locate the light that's permeating the totality of space, the totality of the sky. Thus, moon in the water, exactly: This.

Sansheng phrases his question as, How does a person who has broken free from all conditioning sustain themselves? This is just a variation on the inquiry that we are all dancing around: what does an enlightened reality look like? More specifically, what do I, as an enlightened person, live like? It's not an easy question, and it's not an easy question to respond to, either. Very frequently, responses to this question are roundabout or tremendously cautious, or offered as negations: the enlightened reality looks "not like this" and "not like that" and fill in the blanks of all of the other things it isn't like.

There are also some beautiful attempts to present what enlightenment is like in positive ways. In Cultivating the Empty Field, Hongzhi presents a poetic representation of that reality. Here is a section titled "The Clouds' Fascination and the Moon's Cherishing":

A person of the Way fundamentally does not dwell anywhere. The white clouds are fascinated with the green mountain's foundation. The bright moon cherishes being carried along with the flowing water. The clouds part and the mountain appears. The moon sets and the water is cool. Each bit of autumn contains vast interpenetration without bounds. Every dust is whole without reaching me; the ten thousand changes are stilled without shaking me. If you can sit here with stability, then you can freely step across and engage the world with energy. There is an excellent saying that the six sense doors are not veiled, the highways in all directions have no footprints. Always arriving everywhere without being confused, gentle without hesitation, the perfected person knows where to go.