Moon Viewing Is Our Practice

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Dear Still Water Friends,

When we come to mindfulness practice we are usually given simple instructions, such as: “Bring your awareness to your breath. If the mind wanders, if you begin to think about things, then simply come back to the awareness of your breath.”

If we stay with mindfulness practice, over time we learn to use that same focused awareness on other phenomena as we experience them: on sights, sounds, tastes, smells, physical sensations, and the creations of our mind.

As we practice, we become better able to distinguish between awareness – the direct experiential knowledge of phenomena, and thinking – the commentary we create about phenomena.

If we pay close attention and learn to become aware of our awareness, the tradition tells us that we will discover something more — that when we are aware, there is no self and no object, there are just moments of awareness.

In Transformation at the Base, Thich Nhat Hanh uses the term “double grasping” for the view that subjects and objects have an existence separate from consciousness.

Consciousness always includes subject and object of consciousness. Self and other, inside and outside are all creations of our conceptual minds. This has been transmitted to us by many generations, and is called the two-fold, or “double grasping.” First is the grasping of the subject of perception as self, and second is the grasping of the object of perception as an external, objective reality. In fact, both subject and object belong to perception. We have to train our minds in order to be able to release both kinds of grasping.

As I understand it, the intent of this teaching is not to deny the utility of a language or science in which there are subjects and objects. Rather it is to help us see that there is also another more direct way of experiencing the world. Subject and object are conventions, a mental habit. The danger is that we are boxed-in by this mental habit, creating a self-imposed barrier between ourselves and others, between ourselves and the world. When the barrier dissolves, there is the possibility of letting go of our egos, touching grace, or, as Thay puts it, living in Pure Land of the Buddha and the Kingdom of God.

The 17th century German mystic, Angelus Silesius wrote:

God, whose love and joy
are present everywhere,
can’t come to visit you
unless you aren’t there.

Rumi’s poem Radiance, addresses the same theme:

If ten lamps are in one place,
each differs in form from another;
yet you can’t distinguish whose radiance is whose
when you focus on the light.

In the field of spirit there is no division;
no individuals exist.
Sweet is the oneness of the Friend with His friends.
Catch hold of spirit.
Help this headstrong self disintegrate;
that beneath it you may discover unity,
like a buried treasure.

In the Plum Village tradition one way we learn to let go of our double grasping is by bringing the process into awareness and savoring our experiences. In the poem below Thich Nhat Hanh describes it as the practice of moon viewing.

This Thursday, after our meditation period, we will talk about our experiences with moon viewing and the joy and ease that come from letting go of double grasping.

You are invited to be with us.

Warm wishes,

Mitchell Ratner
Senior Teacher

If you would like to join the Still Water Second Body Practice that begins in February, please read the information on the web site and contact the coordinator, Annie Mahon, by this Friday.

Please also consider joining us for one or more of our special Still Water events in February:

Moon Viewing
by Thich Nhat Hanh

If there is no self,
there will be no samsara.
Why then do you have to dissolve the self?
Why do you have to stop samsara?

There is no self,
but there is the belief in a self.
There is no samsara,
but there is the idea of samsara.

Is the full moon tonight a self?
No, it is not a self.
Is the moon viewer a self?
No, he is not a self.

How then can the moon viewer enjoy the moon?
It is precisely because the moon has no self
and the moon viewer has no self
that both moon and moon viewer are wonderful,
and that moon viewing is a wonderful thing.

Moon viewing is our practice.

–– From: Call Me By My True Names

(Note: Samsara is a Sanskrit term for the world experienced as suffering. It is the opposite of Nirvana, liberation.)