The well-known Zen Buddhist phrase ‘the finger pointing at the moon’ refers to the means and the end, and the possibility of mistaking one for the other. Trevor Leggett says, ‘the forms are the methods and they are very important as pointing fingers, but if we forget what they are for and they become, so to speak, the goal in their own right, then our progress is liable to stop. And if it stops, it retrogresses.’ On the other hand there are those who say ‘with considerable pride, “I don’t want fingers or methods. I want to see the moon directly, directly . . . to see the moon directly . . . no methods or pointing.” But in fact they don’t see it! It’s easy to say.’With many varied analogies, stories and incidents, Trevor Leggett points to the truth beyond words, beyond explanations and methods. Indeed, the book itself is like ‘a finger pointing at the moon’.
There is a saying about Kobo (ad 800) whose calligraphy is regarded, even today, as amongst the greatest examples of this highly developed art: ‘This wonderful calligrapher does not choose his brush. Kobo Daishi, Great Teacher Kobo, does not choose the brush.’
Trevor Leggett (1914 – 2000), was one of the leading writers on Zen Buddhism in the West. He knew Japanese and lived for a considerable time in Japan. He was the first foreigner to obtain the Sixth Dan (senior teachers degree) in judo from Kodokan and has written several well-known books on the subject. Among his many books on Zen are A First Zen Reader, The Warrior Koans, Zen and the Ways, Yoga and Zen, and Old Zen Master. He was also head of the BBC Japanese World Service for 24 years.
Fingers and Moons by Trevor Leggett
Published: 1988, reprint 2011, Paperback 144 pages, £10.95
ISBN 13: 9780946672073 ISBN 10: 0946672075
Buddhist Publishing Group
You can buy Fingers and Moons from: The Book depository.co.uk £10.00 with free worldwide delivery. (The Book Depository is owned by Amazon.)
All prices are approximate.