Watching the moonby Izumi Shikibu
English version by Jane Hirshfield
Original Language Japanese
Watching the moon
I knew myself completely,
no part left out.
|-- from Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women, Edited by Jane Hirshfield|
/ Photo by gavdana /
This particular poem is one of my favorites in its use of the moon as a sacred metaphor. The blissful state reveals itself as a shining light, as a luminescence permeating the still field of the mind. There is a sense of light from an undefined 'above,' silence, a fullness of vitality, and deep rest.
In sacred poetry, particularly in Zen poetry, this is often expressed as the full moon in the night sky.
The moon is the individual consciousness that shines only by reflecting the constant light of the sun, which is unbounded awareness. Individual consciousness, like the moon, waxes and wanes, sometimes bright and clear, sometimes dark.
When the moon, consciousness, is full, it is round, whole, complete, perfectly reflecting the light of divine awareness. The full moon is enlightenment. It is Buddha-mind. It is the soft light that illumines the land below when all is at rest.
With this understanding, reread Shikibu's poem. Do you feel the power of the statement beneath its beautiful words?
When she says she is "Watching the moon," she can be describing the deep meditation practice of witnessing the radiance of opened awareness. To do so "at midnight" carries the double meaning of a late night meditation (which is often the best time for deep contemplation), but midnight also suggests the depth of nighttime, the great Void. She perceives the enlightened mind shining quietly within emptiness. There is nothing else present but the light of the moon. There is only awareness.
She specifically describes the moon as "solitary" and "mid-sky." In this profound communion, the awareness is recognized as being absolutely alone in the sense that there is no 'other,' nothing outside of its sphere; it is "solitary." And it is the center point of being; it is the heart, it is the core; the moon is "mid-sky."
When we stand silently bathed by the light of the moon at midnight, we finally experience our true nature. We know ourselves "completely" -- all of the seemingly disjointed and conflicting parts of ourselves are seen to be parts of a unified whole, "no part left out." We are the wholeness.