'Flower Sermon'


Among adherents of Zen, the origin of Zen Buddhism is ascribed to a story, known in English as the Flower Sermon, in which Śākyamuni Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) transmits direct prajñā (wisdom) to the disciple Mahākāśyapa. In the original Sino-Japanese, the story is called nengemishō (拈花微笑, literally "pick up flower, subtle smile"). In the story, Śākyamuni gives a wordless sermon to his disciples (sangha) by holding up a white flower. No one in the audience understands the Flower Sermon except Mahākāśyapa, who smiles. Within Zen, the Flower Sermon communicates the ineffable nature of tathātā (suchness) and Mahākāśyapa's smile signifies the direct transmission of wisdom without words. Śākyamuni affirmed this by saying:

I possess the true Dharma eye, the marvelous mind of Nirvana, the true form of the formless, the subtle [D]harma [G]ate that does not rest on words or letters but is a special transmission outside of the scriptures. This I entrust to Mahākāśyapa.[1]

Zen developed as a form of Buddhism that concentrated on direct experience rather than creeds, doctrines, or intellectual analysis. Zen is essentially an exploratory methodology for mapping consciousness, a meditative tradition that foregrounds direct experience of tathātā which may only be afforded by the entrance of the "gateless" Dharma Gate.[2] - Source

One of my favorite tumblrs, Lazy Yogi, shared this wiki link about the Flower Sermon today. Beautiful story. It took me to a conversation earlier this week about different spiritual systems and the spirit world. The person I was discussing with expressed that they were absolutely fine being ignorant about the spiritual world and other spirits. Jesus & church was more than enough for her. All I could do was respect it. However, I could barely relate. I'm on the other end of the spectrum obsessed and wanting and needing to know what's popping in the spiritual world and what are all these spirits about?!...but really how do they all fit into the grander scheme of life?

Now I wonder, when did books and doctrines and one holy day a week become enough for people. Where has the desire to experience, see, and feel, in a sense, the divine for one's self! I was once really into philosophy but quickly got tired of all the talk and wanted to know for myself! I love books, stories, ideas, and intellectual conversations but they can only take you but so far. I crave more. In fact books and stories truly just get me excited about the possibility of experiencing the descriptions and images that books share.

One of the very few things I remember about Catholic sunday school as a kid was a discussion one day about the importance of maintaining a child-like innocence spiritually and/or religiously. I have no clue why that stuck with me. Maybe it gave me a reason to dwell in and hold on to the ideas of Peter Pan and never growing up just a little longer. However I'm glad that level of curiosity and innocence never left.

Where has our deep sense of curiosity gone? Where is that itch to know and poke our head into life and spirit for ourselves. Where is the seeker in us? The spiritual warrior...the mystic?