“Like snow and moon having the same color, this field is without boundary and beyond direction” – Hongzhi

As with the Hongzhi quote that I brought to our meditation on Sunday, with this quote about the snow and the moon, I found myself looking at the 100 cases that Hongzhi collected and noticing which ones jumped out at me as speaking to something in this koan. Once again a story about Zhaozhou stood out.

On Sunday it was him responding to a request about meditation instruction by asking if the person had eaten and when they said they had, he told them to wash their bowls. For this quote about the moon and the snow being the same color it was this story, “A student asked Zhaozhou, ‘What is the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming from the West?’ Zhaozhou said, ‘The juniper tree in the front garden.’”

Another koan of the 100 in the collection that stood out for me was a story about a teacher named Yunmen. It goes like this, “A student asked Yunmen, ‘What is the conversation that leaps over the buddhas and goes beyond the ancestors?’ Yunmen said, ‘Cake.’”

With both of these koans the response to what is the most essential question is the most ordinary thing. The field that Hongzhi is talking about in the quote, is what he calls the empty field and the fact that it has no boundaries and is beyond direction speaks to the emptiness of it, though, it is not barren, it is full of everything, including cypress trees and cakes, and everything in it is precious.


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