Zazen

by Eihei Dogen

English version by Steven Heine
Original Language Japanese

The moon reflected
In a mind clear
As still water:
Even the waves, breaking,
Are reflecting its light.

-- from The Zen Poetry of Dogen: Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace, by Steven Heine

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Zazen is the practice of sitting meditation with Zen -- so let's meditate together...

Moon and water and mind.

The moon reflected
In a mind clear
As still water


Dogen is building on a classic spiritual image: the mind as a lake or pool of water. When the mind is still, it becomes clear, and its calm face reflects the gentle light of heaven (the moon).

This is so much of what meditation practice aims for, settling the mind. Sometimes our meditation is filled with effort, even aggression, attempting to subdue the movements of the mind. Sometimes our meditation is more forgiving, we stop interfering with the mind and simply observe it until, of its own accord, it quiets and calms.

All in order to see clearly the light of the moon.

But so often, with or without effort, that agitated mind just doesn't want to settle. What then, meditators?

Even the waves, breaking,
Are reflecting its light.


Dogen reminds us that, if we learn to really look, we can glimpse the reflected light even in the moving waves of the mind. The mind may move, or it may yet grow still, but the goal is reached.

And so the last of our excuses falls away. We meditate effortlessly, we meditate with effort. We meditate with still mind, and we meditate amidst busy mind. Clarity is still found.



Recommended Books: Eihei Dogen

Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter The Zen Poetry of Dogen: Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library) The Soul is Here for its Own Joy: Sacred Poems from Many Cultures





Zazen