Monday, July 11, 2011

Finger Pointing At The Moon

"Truth has nothing to do with words. Truth can be likened to the bright moon in the sky. Words, in this case, can be likened to a finger. The finger can point to the moon's location. However, the finger is not the moon. To look at the moon, it is necessary to gaze beyond the finger, right?" 
(Zen Inspiration)

Yesterday (Sunday), I talked about the menu not being the meal.  I love this simple statement.  It basically says that no matter how many words one can use to describe the mouthwatering goodness of the food on a menu, the menu is not the truth of the food.  The food must be eaten, chewed and savored to experience the truth of it.

In much the same way, the Zen parable of truth - the finger pointing at the moon - teaches us once again that although someone points to the moon to show us the truth of its luminosity, the finger pointing is not the moon itself.

As practitioners of yoga and meditation we often rely on teachers or "teachings" to point us in the right direction.  These are essential to our growth as students. However, we can get so fixated on ideology or dogma that we mistake that ideology or dogma for the truth.  We can get so infatuated by looking at the finger pointing that we miss the glory of the truth itself.  A finger points at the moon, but the moon is not at the tip of the finger. Words point at the truth, but the truth is not in words.

This is where Zen and yoga fit so beautifully together (like peas and carrots or peanut butter and jelly!). 

This Zen parable ties in to the yogic idea of satya or "truth".  Satya is one of the yamas or eight limbs of yoga laid out in the Yoga Sutras (  We practice satya to clearly see ourselves and the world and to be honest about our feelings, thoughts and words.  Satya inspires us to understand ourselves and the the world as a whole.  The truth is powerful in that it helps us to see our strengths and limitations as simply being as they are and without judgement or pride.

On our yoga mats or meditation cushions, truth starts the moment we stop judging our performance in the practice.  We set about practicing solely for the sake of creating spaciousness and clarity in mind, body and spirit. We ask ourselves: "What's true for me in this pose?", "Am I competing?", "Am I peaceful or pushing too hard?",  "Am I present?", "What's my intention?". We practice so that a greater awareness of self and existence can happen.  The practice helps us to connect more directly to OUR truth (the finger pointing!) in any given moment and once we connect to that truth we begin act in the spirit of our true nature (the moon!).  What's true for you in this pose?  Are you competing?  Are you peaceful?  Are you present?  What's true?

So really, words, teachers and wisdom can only point.  And as long as we are pointing and discussing the different pointers, we are not experiencing.  Practicing satya isn't always easy.  It can be challenging and humbling and at times uncomfortable to see the truth and to commit to living it.  But what we start to find is that living with absolute truth is ultimately very freeing. Experiencing satya means living your truth and living a a life of respect, honor and integrity. 

The Face of Truth awakens us.
The Eye of Truth feeds us.
The Heart of Truth builds us.  

So, what's true for you on the yoga mat, the meditation cushion or simply walking the path of your life?  Ask this question over and over and as many times as it takes.  Be brave enough to live it.  Be open enough to share it.

In the words of Bruce Lee, "Don't concentrate so much on the finger pointing at the moon that you miss all that heavenly glory."

Until next time...

"He who knows others is wise, he who knows himself is enlightened" 
-Lao Tzu

The Face of Truth is covered
with a brilliant golden orb.
Remove it, O Sun,
so that I who am devoted to the Truth
may behold the Truth.
 -The Upanishads
Finger Pointing At The Moon
by Apollo Sunshine
What we think is
less than we know.
What we know is
less than we LOVE.
What we love is
so much less than
what there is,
We are so much less
than what we are.
Words are simply
a finger pointing
at the moon,
They’re so far away
and so out of tune.


  1. Love the finger - moon metaphor... This makes me want to do Yoga.. I have often pointed my mind at that idea.... but not yet.....

  2. Does anyone know if the Zen parable about pointing to the moon has an author?

    1. there are many... the first i became of aware of is the artist Magritte (Ce n'est pas une pipe.)

  3. Great post! Do you know the artist of the painting?

  4. So, what was the finger and what was the moon in Bruce Lee’s movie Enter The Dragon?