The Moon in Water

Just when my longing
to see the moon over Kyoto 
one last time grows deepest 
the moon I behold this autumn night 
leaves me sleepless for its beauty.

Dogen  wrote this poem towards the end of his life.  It’s contained within a marvelous book by Steven Heine “The Zen Poetry of Dogen.” The poetry is a great way to engage with the feeling-ness of Dogen.

When he wrote the poem he was mortally ill and required to leave Eiheiji in the mountains and go to Kyoto for medical treatment.

Kyoto at that time was the center of Japanese society and culture, and was the society into which Dogen had been born.

In the poem he catches himself picturing the moon over Kyoto and then realizes that that moon is the same moon that he’s looking at right now. 

Dogen often uses the phrase “the moon in water”. In this poem is the realization that the moon reflected in the water of his imagination is the same moon which is reflected in the water of his eye now.

That moon is always the same moon. Without it being reflected in water there is no moon:  there is no moon apart from its reflection in the heart of another.

 It doesn’t matter if the water is tranquil and peaceful, energetic or disturbed. It doesn’t matter if it has one moon or a thousand, or countless shards of light .

Or if one moon has a billion oceans.