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What I wanted to do today was just read the sermon, the short kong-an, that was given.
And as I read it, let your energy come down. Let your mind rest a little bit. We’re here today with the Buddha. Maybe as I read it I’ll explain just a little bit as I go along, too.
When the Buddha gave this speech, he didn’t say, Now we will sit for ten minutes, and then held up the flower. He only sat down and... was still. Then everybody’s mind moved. This is a long walk up here. At that time, twenty-five hundred years ago, maybe you walked two miles, three miles, five miles to hear a dharma speech. Then this famous teacher sits down to give a speech and doesn’t say anything. This is no good! I walked all this way! I want something! Desire mind comes up. But the Buddha didn’t say anything; he just sat. Nobody knew how long. One minute passed. Two minutes passed. Five minutes passed.
Then, when Buddha held up a flower, only Mahakashyapa smiled. So this is very interesting, because most people talk about Buddha holding up a flower. But it’s not just about holding up the flower. First, he sat. Primary point. Next, the situation was clear for him. There it was. And out of the twelve hundred people—some stories say five hundred, some say five thousand—only one person smiled. Only one person made this mind-to-mind connection with the Buddha.
Long ago on Yeong Sahn mountain (Grdhrakuta), Shakyamuni Buddha sat down to give a Dharma talk before a vast assembly of followers. After sitting for several minutes in silence, he held up a flower. All were silent. Only Mahakashyapa smiled.
Shakyamuni Buddha said, I have the all-pervading true Dharma, incomparable Nirvana, exquisite teaching of formless form. Not dependent on words, a special transmission outside the sutras, I give it to Mahakashyapa.
1. Why did Mahakashyapa smile?
2. Why did the Buddha pick up the flower?
3. What kind of Dharma transmission was given to Mahakashyapa?
4. The Buddha gave his Dharma to Mahakashyapa. But what if Mahakashyapa had said, No, thank you, I already have Dharma. [You already saw the smile.] If you were the Buddha, what could you do?
Commentary: The flower smiles. The Buddha’s face is red.1
So this teaching is so simple. So direct. And even for the Buddha he had to comment on it at the end. In our school, we call that putting legs on a snake. Not necessary. So if you were the Buddha at that time, recognizing Mahakashyapa’s insight, how could you do it in a very simple, clear way? No need for words or speech, but from your heart, from your action, from your clarity.
All of us know that Zen Master Seung Sahn taught situation, relationship, function. Each moment, a situation is appearing. We have a relationship with it. Then, an action appears out of that. For the Buddha, twenty-five hundred years ago, situation-relationship-function was that. But we have this beautiful altar, so our situation is a little bit different. The transmission has already taken place. We have already received it. So then we have some flowers here, first to hold up and then to function correctly and offer to the Buddha. By Zen Master Bon Haeng
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