Close to the Ground: Sun Buddha, Moon Buddha

It is easy to get caught up in headlines and tragedy: Boys and girls ripped from their homes by the thousands; drones and missiles competing with each other for how much damage they can do; political parties that have forgotten how to work together; the cancer that has just announced itself in our best friend’s liver. In response, we seem to be left with either choosing between drowning in the tears of our own heartbreak or running away into Twitter and Facebook. Happily, Yunmen Wenyan, a major Chinese Zen Master (born in 862 and died in 949), offered up an alternative response to living in the world as it is. When he was dying, a young monk asked him how he was doing. His response: “Sun faced Buddha, Moon faced Buddha”. For the last thousand years Zen teachers have been using this phrase as a key life koan, asking students to demonstrate it. How can one be a Sun faced Buddha and a Moon faced Buddha at the same time? Correct responses to the question are all around us, and inside of us. When we weep at our friend’s news we have Moon faced Buddha down. When we rail at the politicians, ditto. When we doub …

The author of Close to the Ground: Reflections on the Seven Factors of Enlightenment, Geri Larkin finds Zen lessons on the streets of Eugene, Oregon.

About the Author

Geri Larkin is the founder and former head teacher of Still Point Zen Buddhist Temple, a Zen meditation center in the heart of...

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Zen BuddhismKindnessAltruism