Book Of Serenity, Case 36

The Case: Master Ma ( Baso) was unwell. The monastery superintendent asked

“Master, how is your venerable state these days?”

The Great Teacher said “Sun Face Buddha, Moon Face Buddha”

This exchange happened very near the end of Baso’s life. He was aware that he would die soon, and had already foretold his death.

The Buddha Name Sutra lists 1,193 names of Buddhas and bodhisattvas. Among them are Sun Face Buddha, who is said to live for 1,800 years, and Moon Face Buddha, who lives only for one day and one night.

In one sense, Baso was talking of the inter fusion of Buddha nature and Karmic nature. Although in his dharma position Baso was aware that death was close, he – and each thing – was also the entirety of dependent origination. So, not- dying, even although he was dying.

But his phrase also says something about two aspects of nonduality we experience in our practice, and so our life.

The first aspect – the Sun Face – is clear and bright, like sunlight. Sometimes, it is as if the world (including the self) is illuminated. Sometimes it is as if the self ( including the world) is illuminated. So one side (world/self) is illuminated, the other is dark, and this switches around.

When self is illuminated, exertion is illuminated. When world is illuminated, experience is illuminated.

In contrast, Moon Face Buddha doesn’t have this switching aspect, and is much more feeling. The moon manifests in reflection; in the water, in the eye, in the mind, it throws its light onto the myriad things like a white sheet. Here, what is prevalent is intimacy, non separation, devotional love.

Sun Face Buddha is the eye of practice

Moon Face Buddha is the heart of practice