Rowboat in Moonlight

MoonlightRowboat“[A] poem that lives beyond subjective and objective is Dögen’s ‘Poem on the Treasury of the Clear-Seeing Eye.’ Without the title or any knowledge of Buddhist imagery, the poem could be read simply in terms of its outer image — but it is both that and something else:

Unmoored
in midnight water,
no waves, no wind,
the empty boat
is flooded with moonlight.

This is a boat; it is also a picture of the self after realization, empty of concepts. The moonlight is overspilling moonlight, and also the sign of Buddhist enlightenment. Between image and symbol, ordinary rowboat and poet’s mind, there is no difference — for a person unmoored from attachment to self, there is no need to anchor this poem as one thing or the other, as both, as neither. It is there to be stepped into along with Dögen, and rowed away.”

Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry
Essays by Jane Hirshfield, HarperCollins 1997, pp. 142-3.

About Nancy

Nancy Hoffmann began studying Zen Buddhism in 1992 and has dedicated this site to meditating on what she sees and believes. She is not averse to sharing laughter as well.
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