painting the rice cake

Dogen’s Treasury of the True Dharma Eye edited by Kaz Tanahashi: The Moon (tsuki)

The pronunciation means “moon”; the ideograph can mean “entire” (tsu) and “function” (ki) (Glossary, p 1071).  Dogen points out our tendency to get caught in absolutes and to be blind to the 10, 000 dharmas (the moon) contained in the smallest drop of dew.  And we do love our assumptions about how things should be: full moon, half-moon, moon rising, moon setting.

He writes of Nagarjuna who was teaching to an assembly and challenged that “even if (he spoke) of buddha nature, no one (could) see it.”  Nagarjuna responded that in order to see buddha nature, we have to let go of our pride.  He “manifested a body of complete freedom in the shape of a full moon” but no one in the assembly understood what was happening; an understandable reaction when we’re caught in our own translation code of the world.  One among the crowd, Kanadeva, explained that “the samadhi of no-form has taken the shape of a full moon.  Buddha nature is vast, empty, and clear.”

That moon of buddha nature cannot be capture in a single circle.  It cannot be contained in the lines of the brush.  

Know that when you paint the manifestation of a full moon, do it on a dharma seat.

Otherwise it will have no shape of moon, of the moon’s full being or thusness.  Otherwise, “you are not embodying the expression and painting the expounding of dharma, but merely creating a piece of painted rice cake.”

It is only by letting go of our preconceptions of something is, letting go of our pride, that we can truly paint – manifest – reality.

Never paint what cannot be painted.  Paint straightforwardly what needs to be painted.

4 thoughts on “painting the rice cake

  1. George Bowman sometimes says that the cost of entry into the present moment is our opinion – that as you say – only by letting go of our idea of how things should be and who we are, can we fully participate in the aliveness of the moment.

    • Ah that beautiful transmission… I love how this very simple truth is held up in so many ways for us to treasure! Hope your book tour is going well, David!

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