What Happens When the Bottom Falls Out of the Bucket: The Briefest of Holy Friday Meditations

In the Christian story this is the day God dies.

It’s worth pushing the point a bit, I believe, as I think about that dying thing in the sense of that call from one of the Sufi sages that we must die before we die.

And the mystery some call killing death.

It is an invitation…

A few years ago my UU minister colleague Ken Sawyer wrote a sermon on the subject he called “Going Apohatic: The Spirituality of Emptying.”

Near the end Ken cites an old Zen story:

“The nun Chiyono studied for years but was unable to find enlightenment. One moonlight night she was carrying an old pail, filled with water. She was watching the full moon reflected in this water, when the bamboo strip that held the pailstaves broke. The pail fell all apart; the water rushed out; the moon’s reflection disappeared. And Chiyono found enlightenment. She wrote this verse:

This way and that way
I tried to keep the pail together
Hoping the weak bamboo
Would never break.
Suddenly the bottom fell out:
No more water:
No more moon in the water:
Emptiness in my hand!”

I wish for us all that bucket where the bottom falls out.

And hopefully before our hearts stop beating…


It is what we’re called to find from before the birthing of the stars and planets…

It’s about real freedom.

Real freedom.

  • http://wonderwheels.blogspot.com Gregory Wonderwheel

    In the koan of “Linji’s Great Awakeing” found in Case 86 of the Record of the Temple of Equanimity, the final line is “At these words, Ji fell into great awakening.” 濟於言下大悟 The word 下 “xia” as a verb means to “go down,” “descend” or “fall.” Like “falling in love” I’ve always liked this image of “falling in enlightenment” or
    “falling into great awakening” and especially in connection with the bottom of the bucket falling out.

  • leela

    Reminds me of the old kids’ song we sang so often: “There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza, there’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza, a hole.” That bucket simply can’t be fixed, no matter how often we try! Sooner or later we all arrive at vast emptiness, no moon. What a relief! Why did we fight it so long?

  • http://theoldadam.com/ the Old Adam

    “When the Son of Man (Jesus) makes you free…you are free indeed.”

  • Stephen Slottow

    I think the “die before we die” quote is from Shido Munan Zenji.