Book Of Serenity, Case 36

The Book of Serenity Case 36.

The case:

Master Ma (Baso) was unwell. His attendant asked “Master, how are you?”. Ma replied “sun face Buddha, moon face Buddha”


By the time of this exchange, Baso had foretold his own death, and would die shortly afterwards. Sun face Buddha had a lifespan of 1,800 years. Moon face Buddha lived just a single day and night. So, at one level Baso is talking about the dual aspect of our life: the particular and karmic, and the Universal. The same theme appears in Uchiyama’s poem (adapted):

Though poor, never poor
Though sick, never sick
Though aging, never aging
Though dying, never dying
Reality before separation:
Endless depth

but on another level, he is talking about our experience as human beings prior to that separation. In the sunlight, the vast alive body of the world is illuminated yet the light is, in a sense, invisible. In the moonlight, by contrast, everything is absorbed by the moonlight, becoming a part of it, tranquil and beautiful.