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Koan: No Water, No Moon

When the nun Chiyono studied Zen under Bukko of Engaku she was unable to attain the fruits of meditation for a long time.

At last one moonlit night she was carrying water in an old pail bound with bamboo. The bamboo broke and the bottom fell out of the pail, and at that moment Chiyono was set free!

In commemoration, she wrote a poem:

In this way and that I tried to save the old pail
Since the bamboo strip was weakening and about to break
Until at last the bottom fell out.
No more water in the pail!
No more moon in the water!

4 comments to Koan: No Water, No Moon

  • In the Koan of the nun Chiyono I believe you left out the last and most important line in her poem.
    As I heard it the poem goes like this:

    This way and that I tried to save the old pail
    The bamboo was weakening and about to break
    At last the bottom dropped out
    No water in the pail!
    No moon in the water!
    Emptiness in my hand!

    The line “Emptiness in my Hand” is the point of the Koan.

  • Robert;

    The version of the koan I have does not have your final line in it. I did a Google for the koan elsewhere, and all the others I found match mine.

    I like your version, but I wonder where you got it?

  • g.v.vikram

    on the 25th anniversary of my wedding, i found that my wife was having an affair with someone. on this day, she decided to leave me. i had known this koan for many years. emptiness in my hands!

  • AyUaxe

    Adding the line, “Emptiness in my hand!”, is explaining a joke. The “point” of the koan is reached in the moment of Chiyono’s experience of all in nothing. Contemplation of a discrete, personal “emptiness” would have been a step backward.