Gateless Gate 6

Gateless Gate (Mumonkan, Wumenguan) #6
Buddha Holds Up a Flower

Shakyamuni Buddha (a.k.a. Siddhartha Gautama, Tathagata, the World-Honored One)(480?-400? BCE) was the founder of Buddhism and hence of Zen. Kashyapa (a.k.a. Mahakasyapa) is recognized in all Buddhist traditions as a main disciple of Gautama Buddha who convened and directed the First Buddhist council. In Zen traditions, he is said to be the first to receive Dharma transmission from Gautama Buddha. The case tells the story of that initial transmission. The tale was created by Chinese Chán Buddhists and the earliest known version appeared in 1036.

Once in ancient times, when the World-Honored One was at Mount Grdhrakûta [a.k.a. Vulture Peak, where Shakyamuni Buddha preached, located near the capital of Magada in ancient India], he held up a flower, twirled it, and showed it to the assemblage.
At this, they all remained silent.
Only the venerable Kashyapa broke into a smile.
The World-Honored One said: "I have the eye treasury of the true Dharma, the marvelous mind of nirvana, the true form of no-form, the subtle gate of the Dharma. It does not depend on letters, being specially transmitted outside all teachings. Now I entrust Kashyapa with this."

Wumen's Comment
The golden-faced Gautama insolently suppressed noble people and made them lowly. He sells dog's flesh under the label of sheep's head. I thought there should be something of particular merit in it. If at that time, however, all those attending had smiled, how would the eye treasury of the true Dharma have been transmitted? Or if Kashyapa had not smiled, how would he have been entrusted with it? If you say that the eye treasury of the true Dharma can be transmitted, then that is as if the golden-faced old man is swindling country people at the town gate. If you say it cannot be transmitted, then why did Buddha say he entrusted only Kashyapa with it?

Wumen's Verse
In handling a flower,
The tail of the snake manifested itself.
Kashyapa breaks into a smile,
Nobody on earth or in heaven knows what to do.

Songxian's Comment
One's garbled words disturb the crowd, another took up the empty and accepted the false. Both of them were seeing ghosts in front of their skulls. Too bad none of them at the meeting were robust; as a result the chase still goes on.

Songhua's Comment
When Buddha held up the flower, he was "so concerned for his children that he was unconscious of being unseemly." When Kashyapa smiled, he "stuck his brains in a bowl of glue."

Yamada's Comment
The very life of Zen is build on this fact: Buddha's religious experience is transmitted from an enlightened master to a disciple. The most important thing a Zen student can do is to make sure he or she is studying under an authentic teacher. In the Buddha's handling a flower, we must recognize the world of the empty-infinite. It cannot be grasped mentally, and if you think you might have understood this world of the empty-infinite, that understanding has nothing to do with Zen. The essential nature of our own self and the essential substance of the whole universe is one. The fact of this essential nature cannot be transmitted by thoughts or explanations. No words, no matter how clearly we may understand them, will bring us to a realization of thiss essential nature. Once you have experienced enlightenment, all of these expressions will become as clear as a jewel in the palm of your hand. You will come to see that each of them is nothing but another name for our own essential nature."

Daido's Comment
The treasury of the true dharma eye has never been given to others and has never been received by another. Why, then, was Kashyapa singld out from among the thousands gathered? If you think the truth of this koan lies in holding up a flower, twirling, or smiling, then you have missed the eye treasury of the true dharma by a thousand miles. Roots and branches are fleeting moments of the one reality.

Daido's Verse
Appearing without form,
Responding in accord with the imperative.
The fragrance of the flower held up
Fills the universe existing right here now.

Hotetsu's Verse
If you are genuine,
like a running brook, like a crow,
Or like that weed in Buddha's hand,
Then the treasury is transmitted to you
Every time you smile, and
Every time you don't.
If you ask, "how can I become genuine?" then you are lost.
Sit down, shut up, and see
That you have never not been.

Illustration by Mark Morse, http://www.thegatelessgate.com/


1 comment:

  1. I really enjoy reading about Shakyamuni Buddha . I truly appreciated your article. Please continue to write.