Sunday, October 3, 2010

Mumonkan, Koan 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."

I was quite happy that I was able to interpret this koan rather quickly. It's about the transmission of Zen, and how this has to be something through personal experience and not something that is conveyed by teachings. This is what is meant by the words "independent of words and transmitted beyond doctrine". Words cannot convey Zen understanding to another person; they must find it and experience it for themselves. So, in truth, the Buddha didn't entrust anything to Mahakashyapa. Mahakashyapa perceived it on his own. This is how Zen Buddhism is "passed on". (By the way the photo here is a statue of Shakyamuni Buddha in Taiwan. It's the largest seated Buddha statue in the world).

While meditating, I had my candle lit as always. Although I had some trouble quieting my mind, I did have an experience of kensho. I've massaged it a little to create my own koan.  See what you think!

Peter was asked if burning a candle while sitting in zazen helps him attain samadhi. He replied: "A candle doesn't burn to reach the end of its wick; it reaches the end of its wick because it burns."


Renegade said...

Show me the flower when you open a door, or pick up a cup. Your interpretation is not yet seeing the point of the Buddha holding up a flower and Mahakasyapa's smile.

Pete said...

Your comment makes me think of the immediacy of Mahakashyapa's response. There was no processing or thinking it over; he experienced it directly and in the moment.