Thursday, October 16, 2014

Zen Transmission: If Words and Letters are Shallow, Twirling a Flower is Shallow

If the words the World-honored One used were really something superficial, then His holding the flower aloft, with His eyes atwinkle, would also be something superficial. Were anyone to consider what He said to be merely name and form, that person is not ‘such a one’ who has learned what the Buddha Dharma really is. Those who consider what is spoken to be no more than names and forms have not yet comprehended that the World-honored One was beyond the use of language as merely ‘names and forms’. They have not yet let go of the confused, emotional attitudes of ordinary, worldly people. What permeates the Body and Mind of Buddhas and Ancestors is the dropping off of self, Their giving expression to the Dharma, and Their using language to voice It, that is, Their turning the Wheel of the Dharma. There have been many indeed who, having witnessed and listened to It, have greatly profited from It. Those whose practice is based on faith, as well as those whose practice is based on understanding the Teaching, are cloaked in Its influence in places where there is an Ancestor of the Buddha, or partake of Its influence even in places where there is no Ancestor of the Buddha...
How does that other bunch understand ‘Makakasho’s face breaking into a smile’? Let them try to put that into words. If it were as those folks say, they would have called that smile ‘a secret communication’. But to call it ‘his not concealing anything’ would be piling foolishness atop foolishness. Later, the World-honored One said, “I have the Treasure House of the Eye of the True Teaching, which is the Wondrous Heart of Nirvana, and I have transmitted It to Makakasho.” Is His speaking in this way using speech or not using speech? If the World-honored One had a dislike for spoken language and preferred holding a flower aloft, He surely would have also held up a flower on this occasion. And then, how could Makakasho fail to understand and how could the assembly fail to hear? Do not rely on the tales of those folks who talk this way.
Shobogenzo, Mitsugo, Trans. Hubert Nearman)