Holding up the Moon

“Who sweeps the ground and also sees the moon?
Holding up the moon, her sweeping is truly not in vain.”

—Dogen Zenji from Eihei Koroku

Our chores and repetitive actions that are the nuts and bolts of human activity are not simply mundane and therefore inconsequential. These activity; brushing our teeth, washing the dishes, changing diapers, answering emails, walking to the mailbox etc are not unimportant or insignificant to the meaning of life. They are not to be rushed through or ignored all together or handed off for someone else to do.

My son asked me in an existential moment, “What is the meaning of life? I answered, “The present moment itself IS the meaning. Nothing extra.”

If we see life from this view, we see that each moment is complete. Each moment upholds both the vast and the particular. Each moment is the actual expression of Buddha, and all our life becomes the field for this expression. 

As Dogen says, “In the whole world, nothing is hidden.” Which means that we actually can clearly see and have a connection with the mystery in each moment. In an ordinary mind, we don’t see that “doing the dishes” is connected with the whole of life and we can’t see this connection because our discursive thinking is still out of control and circulated madly within all our fabricated stories. To have a direct mind, is to do all our activities as holding up the moon, as connected with the universal perspective, and therefore, nothing we do is in vain. That eases my soul. Nothing I do is in vain. Nothing is just trivia and wasting my time. I can take care with even the smallest thing – putting the paperclip back in its magnetic box. When I can receive life as a whole, than each moment, extraordinary or ordinary, is enough.

As Katagiri Roshi writes,

“There is no fixed form for engaging the way. It is about how to live intimately with all things.”

There is no fixed form for engaging the way. Whatever is in front of our noses is the current form and that current form flows easily and without obstructions into the next form. Whatever is in front of our noses is the Buddha nature, is life on life’s terms. We welcome each impermanent form as it flows into the next form. This is practice and the moment of realization both. There is no form that is essentially more “spiritual” than another. A ritualized form such as the morning service does not have an intrinsic value that is higher than, say, going to the bathroom. They both are expressing the Buddha nature, which is held within their own uniqueness. And yet, both types of experience mutually influence each other. We begin to realize the “wholeness” intrinsic in life. To intimately penetrate what is in front of our noses, is to penetrate the whole works . Nothing more.

Katagiri roshi continues by saying,

“Just be in the process of living
for which there is no fixed form
together with all things
with the true mind, the sincere mind and purity.”

This “purity” is not opposed to dirty or sinful. It is not an evaluative word. This purity means to directly and clearly, contact, without clinging, this exact experience. Dogen calls this, “penetrating exhaustively.”

Dogen writes from Uji, Beingtime:

Entirely worlding the entire world with the whole world
Is thus called penetrating exhaustively…….
One does nothing but penetrate exhaustively entire time as entire being.
There is nothing remaining left over.