Full Moon Festival

by Thich Nhat Hanh

Original Language English

What will happen when form collides with emptiness,
and what will happen when perception enters non-perception?
Come here with me, friend.
Let's watch together.
Do you see the two clowns, life and death
setting up a play on a stage?
Here comes Autumn.
The leaves are ripe.
Let the leaves fly.
A festival of colors, yellow, red.
The branches have held on to the leaves
during Spring and Summer.
This morning they let them go.
Flags and lanterns are displayed.
Everyone is here at the Full Moon Festival.

Friend, what are you waiting for?
The bright moon shines above us.
There are no clouds tonight.
Why bother to ask about lamps and fire?
Why talk about cooking dinner?
Who is searching and who is finding?
Let us just enjoy the moon, all night.

-- from Call Me by My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh, by Thich Nhat Hanh

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/ Image by Erik McIean /

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

For those in the Southern Hemisphere, it is the beginning of autumn -- and it is a full moon...

What really drew me to this poem was its contemplation of a serene Buddhist idea of emptiness. I have always loved that quality of autumn, after the boisterous life of spring and summer, we get that glorious last shock of colors and cool temperatures as things quiet down and we begin to turn inward. It is a celebration of emptiness, but not bleakness or hopelessness. It is precisely in that emptiness that we experience a renewed but sublimated sort of life, a hidden expansiveness. In that sleepy season we become more awake and aware.

A few days ago I was on a walk. The day's breeze had worked itself up to a full bluster. Wrapped up, I set out. On my walk I encountered a family with two children flying kites. That's an unusual sight these days, so it caught my attention. I watched as the father helped the children get their kites aloft, holding up each kite in turn to catch the wind and pull taut against the string, then slowly playing its way up higher as they let out the string.

Watching this, while thoughts of war ran through the recesses of my thoughts, I saw the flight of these kites as a metaphor for how to navigate the uncertain world during these dangerous days. The kite, like the Zen master, works with what is, yielding, opening itself, gossamer thin, to the chaos swirling all around it. When all else is battered about, it soars.

Not through force of will, but through its inherent emptiness, it rides those powerful, unpredictable currents. It rises, it dances amidst the turmoil.

Friend, what are you waiting for?
The bright moon shines above us.

Recommended Books: Thich Nhat Hanh

Call Me by My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering Into Peace, Joy & Liberation

Full Moon Festival