Behold the glow of the moon

by Shih-te (Pickup)

English version by Red Pine (Bill Porter)
Original Language Chinese

Behold the glow of the moon
illumine the world's four quarters
perfect light in perfect space
a radiance that purifies
people say it waxes and wanes
but I don't see it fade
just like a magic pearl
it shines both night and day

-- from The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain, Translated by Red Pine

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/ Photo by Robert Couse-Baker /


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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Behold the glow of the moon
illumine the world's four quarters


In Shih-te's poem, the "glow of the moon" can be understood the awareness of the all pervasive light that occurs in deep spiritual ecstasy.

perfect light in perfect space
a radiance that purifies


It is "a radiance that purifies," not in the sense that it somehow corrects reality; rather, it purifies our perception of reality. Through the recognition of this light's radiance, we recognize the essential purity already present everywhere.

people say it waxes and wanes
but I don't see it fade


The light of the moon may wax and wane, but the true light of enlightenment is steady and eternal. Some may see enlightenment itself as unstable, but that is the perspective of the witness. When the mind is stable and utterly still, you can see that the light itself does not fade--

just like a magic pearl
it shines both night and day



Recommended Books: Shih-te (Pickup)

The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library) The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain





Behold the glow of