The Transmission of the Light
In my next two or three posts I’d like to comment on a few sentences from the first chapter from The Transmission of Light written by the Japanese Zen teacher Keizan in the 14th century.
Many years ago my friend Kara attended a retreat with Suzuki Roshi in San Francisco. The morning of the third or fourth day of the retreat she happened to glance at Suzuki. She looked into his eyes and saw that they were completely empty; within that emptiness she saw all of life! She was so overwhelmed with joy that she laughed and cried simultaneously, leaping up and running out of the meditation hall.
This reminds me of Keizan’s statement: “Even though mountains, rivers, and their myriad forms flourish in great abundance, none are left out of the eye of the Buddha…. It is not that you are standing there; the eye is enfolded within you.”
It also reminds me of Meister Eckhart’s statement, “The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love.”
Tim Burkett has never been particularly loving. Instead he has been competitive, ambitious, and wanting to get ahead. But what happens when Tim empties out completely through his sitting practice? Nothing more nor less than, “one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love.”
When your mind is unburdened by thought, there’s a spaciousness evident in the eyes. My friend Kara said that as she kept looking at Suzuki, she experienced love and compassion emanating from him, “like a mother has for her child.”
One day in late June when I was living with my wife and two young children in northern Minnesota, I went out early in the morning to pick wild strawberries for breakfast. I brought the berries into the kitchen, divided them into three portions, and sat down to eat. Before I knew it, my son had eaten both my wife’s portion and his own. I exclaimed, “Linda, Jed ate all your strawberries!” and she calmly replied, “Yes, and how good they tasted.”
Many mothers seem able to open up beyond their own needs to support those of their child. Keizan and Meister Eckhart suggest that we all have that ability to do this with each other. “None are left out of the eye of the Buddha,” since that eye is enfolded with in all of us.
This reminds me of the statement Jesus made when he was asked if he had seen Abraham, the Old Testament patriarch of Judaism. Then the Jews said to Jesus, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am!”
But how do we Get rid of “you” and “Buddha” and quickly understand this matter of I”? To do this “quickly” we need to step out of the time process, as the Zen teacher Mazu says to his student Pai Chang in the following interchange from The Blue Cliff Record:
Mazu and Pai Chang were walking together along a path when suddenly a flock of migratory geese was heard passing overhead. Mazu, turning to his pupil, asked, “What was that sound?” Baizhang innocently answered, “It was the cry of wild geese.” Mazu asked, “Where have they gone?” Baizhang said, “They have flown away.” Mazu grabbed Pai Chang’s nose and twisted it until his disciple cried out. Mazu demanded, “How can they fly away?”
Mazu is reminding his student that things do not fly away — they are here always, part of a fabric which includes all existence. Four hundred years before Keizan, Mazu is encouraging us to stop viewing the world as a fragmented collection of elements and realize our undividedness from all of life, or to quote Jesus again, “Before Abraham was, I am.”
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Tim Burkett, Guiding Teacher