What does the “Finger Pointing to the Moon” Zen analogy mean?
Zen doesn’t say things in syllogisms, but in poetry. Zen is not what it says. Zen is what it shows. Listen and look. Don’t say anything. What do you see? Nothing! That is Zen.
Buddha said, ‘Be a light unto yourself’. Buddha’s message is the greatest message in the whole history of humanity, yet Buddha was only pointing the way. Buddha’s finger points to the moon. You have to look where his finger is pointing. You have to be silent and listen within yourself, and then follow unquestionably, non-argumentatively, without any thinking, just looking and following your look.
Don’t cling to the finger pointing to the moon. Don’t cling to the moon that the finger is pointing to. Look at the moon. The finger is not the moon. Finger and moon are only words, very arbitrary; they mean nothing. What is the whole fuss about then? It is just a finger pointing to the moon. If you question the meaning of the finger pointing to the moon, you miss the whole point. If you start arguing about the finger, or about the moon as if the finger is in some kind of relationship with the moon, you become lost in your mind’s thinking. The finger doesn’t say what the moon is or what the moon isn’t. The finger is a neutral pointer. The whole point of a finger is that it can direct your vision towards the moon. But the moon and the finger individually are irrelevant. What is relevant is the existence.
The finger is not saying anything about the moon. That is where the danger is. Unconscious people may start clinging to the finger and start thinking about the moon. This attachment has happened in almost all religions around the world. People are holding their holy scriptures, their dogma, their beliefs. There are millions of people who go on worshiping the finger, who are praying to the finger, and there are millions of people who are thinking about the moon. The more you are attached to the finger, the more you become incapable of seeing the moon. And the more you think about the moon, the more you become incapable of following the finger and seeing the moon. If you understand the point of where to look, then forget all about the finger, and look at the moon. Do not think about the moon; just plain looking will do the work.
Don’t start thinking about my finger! I am not holding the truth for you, but I can point to it. Just look at the moon, for God’s sake, and totally forget about the finger. All words about spiritual principles and values are just indications. Don’t hold your consciousness onto the words. The mind is not the reality. Words are just indicators. My finger is not the moon, it is just pointing to the moon—it is only a hint. The whole point is about pointing. Do you understand? Look at the moon. What is the point of looking? Looking is the whole point!
Zen is a flash of consciousness. Zen is one of the purest spiritual experiences. Zen is uncontaminated by the mind and its thoughts, theology, assumptions, beliefs, and speculations. The whole point of Zen is about no point at all. Zen simply is.
Transcripts – A collection of Spontaneous Discourses on The Middle Point, Tantra, Yoga, Yantra, Mantra, Zen…, to disciples and friends in Port Coquitlam, Toronto, Vancouver, and Los Angeles.