The Autumn Moon Sings in the Heart Space

Can you hear it? Can you hear it?
A dark moon hides its face in the night
Ten-thousand stars
Sing an overcast sky.

How I wish
to die in autumn
not to be lost,
even in darkness. -Rengetsu

The autumn moon, an ever-changing emblem of awakening, source of mysterious light – looms low, whole and bright as the earth darkens. And we earth beings, can feel it too. The symbolic exchange of Sun and Moon, as the quality of our own light shifts inward.

Some one once explained to me that the pictures of Sun 日 and Moon 月 from the Chinese pictograms showed the moon, as a sun with legs, for it needs legs to run faster around the earth. This is a cute explanation but on further reflection, is there some deeper aspect? Perhaps the ancient Chinese mystics saw something more in the moon that led them to add legs – how its mysterious changing light and closeness to earth has a deep and profound impact on the human heart.

like white clouds
from beginning to end –
a thing of mystery
is this heart. -Rengetsu

Hogen Roshi has been telling me for weeks

“Our practice is about Life and Death. We must include both. We can’t cut out one part, and think this is just about life.”

This year, the shift into early autumn carried with it a global awareness of immense destruction caused by the natural disasters occurring on our planet – seemingly all at once. From fires close to home in the Pacific Northwest to floods in Nepal and India and the two hurricanes that graced the Southern states and Caribbean. It is natural to ask, why? To look into cause and effect. To make assessments, study trends and think about the survival of ourselves, others, our species, the world, Gaia – in the midst of Climate Change.

All of these things are reasonable and responsible considerations. And yet, what Hogen Roshi is asking me to see, to include, to embrace is the foundational, first teaching of the Buddha, the Noble Truth – there is suffering. There is difficulty. There is sickness, old age and there is death. There are tragic deaths; there are deaths that seem unfair or unreasonable or unnecessary, perhaps preventable.

Harsh are the storms of life
But the Compassionate light of the Moon
Abides in a dewdrop on a leaf
In Autumn –Myo-e

Yet what lies beyond life and death? This isn’t a question meant to divert us from having deep concern and compassion for the world, but a call from our Absolute nature. To be caught in the game of trying to escape death, is to be caught in a guaranteed loss. Is to be caught in delusion – is to be caught in Self-forgetfulness. Is to be out of contact with the Dharma.

My hope
Finding a way
to behold
The cloudless moon
upon a lotus blossom in the next world. -Rengetsu

The Buddha taught (and our practice continues to point at this truth) that freedom from life and death can be found through penetrating insight into the true nature of what we call life and death. When we allow ourselves to settle, quiet all the considerations/explanations/trivia, and really look within. When we truly, wholeheartedly investigate the source of our being, ourselves, this world – what is it that is revealed?

This question radiates through the autumn breeze, as my garden explodes with seedpods and yellowing leaves return to the earth bed – precursors to an absence – felt yet, still unseen. In the cool, wet evening air and darkening sky – that dazzling clear white, radiant moon, so close to my heart coos.

What are you doing?
And is it most essential?
How close are you really living to your deepest intention?
Where are you finding relief?
Where are you resting your heart?
Do you know that there is a light that radiates through you?
Your own luminous moon – listen to her voice.
Recognize the one, who does not die.

Just understand that birth-and-death is itself nirvana. There is nothing such as birth and death to be avoided; there is nothing such as nirvana to be sought. Only when you realize this are you free from birth and death. – Dogen Zenji

This Autumn at Heart of Wisdom or Great Vow we will be embarking in an Ango Training Period, October 17 – December 10. A time to cast aside what is extra, and devote single-minded energy to the practice of clarifying the mind and opening the heart. If this calls to you – please join us! There are many ways to participate, check our calendar for details!

Great Vow’s Autumn Ango

Heart of Wisdom Event Calendar