‘Dig the pond, don’t wait for the moonlight; when the pond is complete, the moonlight will naturally be there.’ – Hongzhi
When I bumped into this quote from Hongzhi, the movie ’Field of Dreams ’ came to mind and the phrase “If you build it, he will come.” Perhaps my association was influenced by the recent news that the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees are going to play a major league baseball game on the site of the filming of the movie, a baseball field built in the middle of a cornfield in Iowa. I also had associations between ‘Field of Dreams’ and Hongzhi’s ‘Cultivating the Empty Field’. How, like the vastness, the empty field contains everything, which is a dreamlike state in which a corn field can be a baseball stadium and self can be other.
Hongzhi’s invitation to keep digging the pond, not waiting for the moonlight is an invitation to appreciate that the moonlight is there from the beginning, naturally there. Moonlight is reflected light and that image of reflected light speaks to the silent illumination that Hongzhi was known for. That silent illumination involves taking the step backward that results in the light of our awareness turning inward, illuminating the vastness there. In that way, koan meditation practice is not about achieving some goal, completing the pond, it is about appreciating the moonlight in each shovelful of practice and the silence of saying something without moving your tongue or lips.