Case 6 The Buddha Holds Out a Flower
When Shakyamuni Buddha was at Mount Grdhrakuta, he held out a flower to his listeners.
Everyone was silent.
Only Mahakashyapa broke into a broad smile.
The Buddha said, "I have the True Dharma Eye, the Marvelous Mind of Nirvana, the True Form of the Formless, and the Subtle Dharma Gate, independent of words and transmitted beyond doctrine. This I have entrusted to Mahakashyapa."
Golden-faced Gautama really disregarded his listeners.
He made the good look bad and sold dog's meat labeled as mutton.
He himself thought it was wonderful.
If, however, everyone in the audience had laughed, how could he have transmitted his True Eye?
And again, if Mahakashyapa had not smiled, how could the Buddha have transmitted it?
If you say the True Dharma Eye can be transmitted, then the golden-faced old man would be a city slicker who cheats the country bumpkin.
If you say it cannot be transmitted, then why did the Buddha approve of Mahakashyapa?
Holding out a flower,
The Buddha betrayed his curly tail.
Heaven and earth were bewildered,
At Mahakashyapa's smile.
I once saw a life size ancient statue of MahaKashyapa. He was a small wiry guy. A bit like my teacher Harada Roshi. All the statues point to Shakimuni as a larger more solid person though this far from the time they lived we can never know what they actually looked like. Though small Mahakashyapa was quite a remarkable guy. He was a religious leader with a large following before he met Shakimuni. Mahakashyapa immediately recognized upon meeting Shakimuni that there was something special about Shakimuni and his teachings. He became a devoted follower of the Buddha Way and with his own students more then doubled the Buddha's following. After Shakimuni died, Mahakashyapa became the leader of the Buddhist Community. In case 6 we read the story in which Shakimuni publicly recognises Mahakashyapa's enlightenment and formally starts the lineage of enlightened teachers that has resulted in Zen. Every teacher of Zen can trace his/her lineage back to this original event. Each teacher has to be acknowledged by their teacher to be a vessel of the Dharma. My lineage goes back 83 generations to this event.
Unlike other schools of Buddhism the Zen school is a lineage independent of words and docterine and should be based solely on the experience of Enlightenment, each teacher having had in their own personal way that same experience that the Buddha had 2500 years ago. Unfortunately not every Zen teacher is deeply experienced and may just teach the form of Zen practice, with some concepts gleaned from Buddhism and Zen. This is still a wonderful thing not to be knocked. The form, the practice, and the concepts of Buddhism have great power enlightened or not. And there is no reason most of your effort should not take place in a sanga without an enlightened teacher. But as a student if you truly wish to have the experience and wisdom of the Buddha then you should work also with an enlightened teacher.
This is a touchy subject. Many of the Soto teachers in this country esque teaching "enlightenment". They may think there is good reason for this. The desire for enlightenment can be a barrier as all desires are barriers including the desire to be compassionate. And also this practice takes tremendous endurance. It is typical, even in a monastic situation, to take 6-8 years before having some sort of enlightenment experience. So maybe it is better that a teacher emphasize just sitting as do many Soto teachers. On the other hand with deep desire comes deep effort. And it is only through deep effort, for most of us, that deep experience emerges. Yes, I know, Hui Neng the 6th Patriarch had an enlightenment experience after simply hearing the Diamond Sutra but this type of grace is very very unusual. And true Enlightenment is not usually the result of one experience but takes many years and many experiences to deeply cultivate. Hui Neng diligently continued practicing meditation for 10 years before he emerged as a teacher..
Enlightenment cannot be separated from meditation. We in the West (maybe this is true of all cultures) try to contain everything with ideas. After my first deep experience I made the mistake thinking that all this great new understanding I had was my Enlightenment. As the trained intellectual that I was I spent a lot of time working this new understanding. This was not a bad thing because how else is one to get one's teaching chops together. But then with my mind working on over time and the arrogance of one who thinks he already knows, I was unable to repeate the deep meditative experience for quite some time. When Hui Neng finally did start teaching he made it quite clear that meditation and wisdom were not to be seperated. "Where there is wisdom there is meditation and where there is meditation there is wisdom." This is no different then the Soto teaching of practice enlightenment.
Shakimuni tells Mahakashyapa, you have "the True Dharma Eye, the Marvelous Mind of Nirvana. What is this True Dharma Eye, what is the Mind of Nirvana? Only through the mind of deep meditation will you understand these phrases.
We must not forget Shakimuni raising the flower. This was to be the teaching of the day. We know that Mahakashyapa understood it but do you? If we read the original Sutra's preserved in the Theravada tradition there is nothing like this discourse. That is not to say that it didn't happen. Why would anyone remember and preserve a discourse that was not really a discourse at all? But when you read the Theravada Sutras Shakimuni usually taught using doctrines and words. All this discourse and all the doctrine have little value if you cannot clearly see a flower for what it is. That is the deepest discourse that the can be given on the Buddha Way. I am sure many of the people at this "discourse" were wondering what the Buddha was trying to say in this act of raising the flower but Mahakashapa was simply present with the Buddha raising the flower not caught in any thoughts and but also clearly understanding the Buddha's intention.
The True Dharma Eye is the clear seeing eye not caught on words and ideas but also clearly understanding. This is the mind of nirvana, This is the mind of prajna. it is also the mind of deep meditation. This is what we practice when we meditate, not to be caught on words and ideas. It sounds simple but it is not. Can you drop all your words and ideas and clearly see the world for what it is?