It’s worth noting that for a pearl to be produced there needs to be grit—so as much as the moon is necessary, what is also necessary is your utterly neurotic way of life. Without that grit there is no hope for a pearl to produce itself. That pearl is nothing other than your neurosis illuminated by moonlight. And, just as the rabbits have to act with unwavering intention, the next generation of humanity is predicated on bringing forth people who are not afraid of the moonlight and who know how to trust it completely.
So there is the rabbit, there is the oyster—which one is the body? Which one is the function? Is Chih Men saying the same thing, or is he saying different things? In both situations there is the stillness, there is the trust, there is the open mind, the silent welcoming of the light. I don’t know about you, but I think we track the moon. We know where it is at all times. It’s kind of like the flower in the garden that instinctively spins on its stem to follow the sun. How often am I walking through the forest and feel as if somebody is tapping me from behind on the shoulder—and it’s the moon just rising, its head peeking over the hillside? We can fall in love with the moonlight, recognizing that we are nothing but light—specifically moonlight, the light available within darkness.
How much of our practice has to do with our capacity to remain perfectly still and trust this resting—resting within resting and resting within activity? We discover that this reality can inform us deeply about activity, about what it is that we need to do. But it begins with just sitting, open to the moonlight, doing absolutely nothing, continually returning to that place before the first thought moves in our mind. The pointer says, “The single thread right before us is perpetually unbroken.” That’s what all the forms of practice are all about—to remind us of this unbroken continuum. Yes, we train. Yes, we have beginnings and endings. Yes, there are the three rings of the bell and two rings of the bell, there is liturgy, there is a meal and there is cleanup—all of this points to the single thread right before us, perpetually unbroken.
I guess I trust the stillness more than I trust the movement. I trust my tendency to turn toward zazen more than my impulses to engage. I’m not sure why. Maybe it is when I witness and really assess my actions, or when I reflect on the activity of humanity, or when I recognize that the Buddha chose to manifest his wisdom, not as a political figure, a power broker or an environmentalist, but by sitting down. And he chose that again and again. Likewise, when Chih Men had to receive the robe from the emperor he did, but he used it as a teaching, pointing toward stillness, toward zazen.
When Dogen brought the teachings back from China, he framed them in a particular way—he spoke about the “universal recommendation for zazen.” Zazen was the first thing and the most important thing—it informed everything he did for the rest of his life. It’s worth noticing that the wisest and clearest people in our tradition continuously point to zazen. It may be that at this edge of our human dilemma we feel compelled to go forth into the world and take care of its desperate needs. But it may be that that, too, is nothing other than yet another mirage of our self-importance, another expression of our collective anthropomorphism.