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Query regarding Dharma Transmission

misecmisc1misecmisc1 I am a HinduIndia Veteran
edited November 29 in General Banter

Hi All,
I have read at many places in Zen literature regarding transmission of dharma from teacher to student. My question is – is this some secret teachings of dharma, which the teacher explicitly tells to a student? If yes, then how can it be like this if there is actually nothing as per Heart Sutra?
Teachings on Dharma, which is teachings on things just as they are, is self-evident, so having it public is ok, but what is this secret transmission from teacher to student?
Is it that for enlightenment to happen, this secret transmission is a pre-requisite and so without having an explicit dedicated physical teacher, is enlightenment not possible?
Any information here please. Thanks.

Comments

  • Sorry, it's a secret.....

    dhammachickVastmindSnakeskinShoshin
  • misecmisc1misecmisc1 I am a Hindu India Veteran
    edited November 30

    @karasti said:
    Heart Sutra doesn't really say there is nothing. True wisdom is found only when we decontruct all the things we think hold us and our lives together. There is still wisdom, however, once that happens. Prior to that, wisdom peeks through like a sun behind the clouds but it is clouded much of the time. The clouds being our belief systems, our ideas, our thoughts about what reality it and how we hold it together with all of our ideas and beliefs.

    My understanding says that the Heart Sutra really says there is no thing - no suffering, no wisdom, no samsara and no nirvana - but this is from Ultimate Reality point of view. But from Conventional reality point of view - there is suffering, wisdom, samsara and nirvana.

    But this is mostly (in my experience) specifically Tibetan stuff. Not really Zen.

    In Zen, I think I read somewhere about this thing which is referred to as mind-to-mind transmission - I cannot say about other Zen teachers, but as far as Dogen's story is concerned, as far as I have read there was a mind-to-mind transmission from Ruigen (the name of Dogen's teacher whose name's spelling I am not sure of, but he was the last teacher under which Dogen studied and attained enlightenment, when Dogen was in China) and even in the movie Dogen, in a video clip, they have shown this mind-to-mind transmission to have happened between Dogen's teacher and Dogen - so what was this mind-to-mind dharma transmission between Dogen's teacher and Dogen?

    Was there any mind-to-mind dharma transmission from the first patriarch to the sixth patriach in Chan/Zen? Anybody having information on it please. Thanks.

    Snakeskin
  • Why don't you sit with and talk with and listen?
    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/forum.php

    Secret transmission? Not really, open to everyone ...

    Snakeskin
  • jwredeljwredel Albuquerque Explorer

    Yes, as @karasti recognizes, there are a couple things in play.

    First, there is the concept of 'direct transmission'. Put Zen in this category. Direct transmission refers to the transmission of the fundamentals of Buddhism from teacher to student without benefit of the sutras (suttas). And in some of the stricter schools, students may be requested (forbidden) not to do any 'outside ' reading.

    Second, there is the concept of Dharma transmission. As the essence of Zen is the fostering of a progression of insights, most Zen schools have a 'system' in place to help ensure students actually experience these insights. And so, in many schools, a Dharma transmission might simply mean that you understand this system and it is acknowledged that you are able to use it for the benefit others. (You can open a Zen center and teacher others.) In some schools this might imply that you have 'awakened', but it is not a requirement by any means.

    To that end, no, no secret teachings.

    misecmisc1lobsterSnakeskin
  • misecmisc1misecmisc1 I am a Hindu India Veteran
    edited December 6

    @misecmisc1 said:

    @karasti said:
    Heart Sutra doesn't really say there is nothing. True wisdom is found only when we decontruct all the things we think hold us and our lives together. There is still wisdom, however, once that happens. Prior to that, wisdom peeks through like a sun behind the clouds but it is clouded much of the time. The clouds being our belief systems, our ideas, our thoughts about what reality it and how we hold it together with all of our ideas and beliefs.

    My understanding says that the Heart Sutra really says there is no thing - no suffering, no wisdom, no samsara and no nirvana - but this is from Ultimate Reality point of view. But from Conventional reality point of view - there is suffering, wisdom, samsara and nirvana.

    My current understanding says: Even though Heart Sutra says there is no thing, but after all things are negated, may be there is still something, just that it cannot be called as a thing and may be this is what is called as suchness or just thisness of the present moment. So @karasti may be your understanding was correct.

    David
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    edited December 6

    "Transmission" is above my pay grade, but I will say that of all the pointing and nudging my Zen teacher seemed to dole out, the snippet I honor most is that he never, to the best of my knowledge, acknowledged, whether formally or informally, the understanding of another. If I pretended to know the demarcation between "secret" and "obvious" in all this, that would brand me as a liar.

    Oh well, Liars R Us.

  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran
    edited December 6

    @misecmisc1 said:
    Hi All,
    I have read at many places in Zen literature regarding transmission of dharma from teacher to student. My question is – is this some secret teachings of dharma, which the teacher explicitly tells to a student? If yes, then how can it be like this if there is actually nothing as per Heart Sutra?
    Teachings on Dharma, which is teachings on things just as they are, is self-evident, so having it public is ok, but what is this secret transmission from teacher to student?
    Is it that for enlightenment to happen, this secret transmission is a pre-requisite and so without having an explicit dedicated physical teacher, is enlightenment not possible?
    Any information here please. Thanks.

    The Heart Sutra says there is actually nothing?

    I'm pretty sure that's a misinterpretation as I see the Heart Sutra as the Sutra of the Middle Way.

    The Two Truths work together as one truth. It doesn't work to go to the extremes of eternalism or nihilism and there is no such thing as nothing.

    It just doesn't make sense. If there is in actuality nothing whatsoever then there would be no room for illusions and nothing to trick into thinking it exists.

    I didn't read the other posts before responding so sorry for the redundancy in that regard.

    As for teacher-to-student transmission I think there is some truth to that if satori is the goal because for the teacher to know what you need to hear, they need to see your expressions as you digest what they're saying.

    Everybody is different and I think that is why there are so many ways to go about the dharma.

    For example, the Bahiya Sutta may be useful to you or me or it may only resonate for one of us or neither but it was tailor made for Bahiya.

    Bahiya needed to humble himself and this is apparent in his back story but if it was somebody that was fighting urges to kill themselves (just as an opposing example) a different view on emptiness would perhaps have been more appropriate for that days sermon.

  • misecmisc1misecmisc1 I am a Hindu India Veteran
    edited December 6

    @David said:

    @misecmisc1 said:
    Hi All,
    I have read at many places in Zen literature regarding transmission of dharma from teacher to student. My question is – is this some secret teachings of dharma, which the teacher explicitly tells to a student? If yes, then how can it be like this if there is actually nothing as per Heart Sutra?
    Teachings on Dharma, which is teachings on things just as they are, is self-evident, so having it public is ok, but what is this secret transmission from teacher to student?
    Is it that for enlightenment to happen, this secret transmission is a pre-requisite and so without having an explicit dedicated physical teacher, is enlightenment not possible?
    Any information here please. Thanks.

    The Heart Sutra says there is actually nothing?

    I'm pretty sure that's a misinterpretation as I see the Heart Sutra as the Sutra of the Middle Way.

    Please tell what actually exists as per Heart Sutra? Thanks.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    I think that most of us make a mistake in thinking we truly, fully grasp the Heart Sutra in any capacity. I am pretty sure it is something that has to be experienced but is not easily explained, especially to the point of understanding by our brains. It doesn't say nothing exists, but it says all phenomena doesn't exist. But just because that is how we see and experience the world doesn't mean that is all there is. My understanding is that to fully realize (not just read and understand the words logically)the Heart Sutra is basically to attain enlightenment, but if it were true nothing existed, then enlightened beings wouldn't exist because they would realize themselves into non-existance at that point :lol:

    Something exists beyond our physical world and the Heart Sutra is pointing that out. That once you remove all the rest of that stuff, what do you have? The answer isn't nothing. But rather the second you try to figure it out you are again grasping, and then you have clicked back into the list of things the Heart Sutra says doesn't exist. That is why it's not possible to discuss or describe a true understanding of it, because you cannot do so outside of the framework that it explains isn't real. This is a really good article, I think. And a piece from it.

    "Usually we think that if a given phenomenon is not something, it must be nothing, and if it is not nothing, it must be something. But emptiness is just a word for pointing out the fact that no matter what we say or think about something, it does not really correctly characterize that something because our dualistic mind just gets stuck in one extreme or the other. Thus, we could say that emptiness is like thinking outside of the box, that is, the box of black-and-white thinking or dualistic thinking. As long as we stay within the ballpark of dualistic thinking, there is always existence, nonexistence, permanence, extinction, good, and bad. Within that frame of reference, we will never get beyond it, no matter if we are religious, a scientist, a Buddhist, an agnostic, or whatever. Emptiness tells us that we have to step out of that ballpark altogether. Emptiness points to the most radical transformation of our entire outlook with regard to ourselves and the world. Emptiness not only means the end of the world as we know it, but that this world never really existed in the first place."

    https://www.lionsroar.com/the-heart-sutra-will-change-you-forever/

    lobstermisecmisc1David
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited December 7

    The Heart Sutra says that the five skhandas are non-self...

    So is there something other than the five skhandas? I think if you say no that is a bit nihilistic. I think a lot of times it is said not to grasp at views of what there is...

    lobsterDavid
  • There is always the birdie song ...

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited December 7

    @lobster or the ween version lol :p :p :p :p :

  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran
    edited December 7

    @misecmisc1 said:

    @David said:

    @misecmisc1 said:
    Hi All,
    I have read at many places in Zen literature regarding transmission of dharma from teacher to student. My question is – is this some secret teachings of dharma, which the teacher explicitly tells to a student? If yes, then how can it be like this if there is actually nothing as per Heart Sutra?
    Teachings on Dharma, which is teachings on things just as they are, is self-evident, so having it public is ok, but what is this secret transmission from teacher to student?
    Is it that for enlightenment to happen, this secret transmission is a pre-requisite and so without having an explicit dedicated physical teacher, is enlightenment not possible?
    Any information here please. Thanks.

    The Heart Sutra says there is actually nothing?

    I'm pretty sure that's a misinterpretation as I see the Heart Sutra as the Sutra of the Middle Way.

    Please tell what actually exists as per Heart Sutra? Thanks.

    The void for one thing. There is no ear in the void and the void is form.

    It also says there is no suffering in the void. Do you suppose the Heart Sutra then negates the Noble Truths or that it is easy to misinterpret things in a nihilistic manner if we are not careful?

    If you come at the Heart Sutra without keeping the Two Truths in mind this can happen.

    I still don't understand how anyone could actually believe there is literally nothing while they are doing stuff.

    You don't exist except in relation to everything else. How anyone figures that means we don't really exist baffles me almost to the point of vexation. It just seems like such an irresponsible outlook.

    This can't even be a delusion of being because otherwise there is nobody and nothing to trick into being here now. An illusion implies misperception, not non-existence.

    There is no such thing as "nothing" and no amount of pretending we don't exist will ease your suffering.

    I think emptiness is better explained as potential rather than nothing. Potential is not a magic word either and means just what it sounds like it means (unlike "nothing"). It's just the coming together of conditions.

    Bernie Glasman does an excellent explanation of the Heart Sutra in Infinite Circle but there are websites that can take you through it line by line.

  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Veteran
    edited December 7

    Transmission of teachings, transmission of power, transmission of the lineage ... you find this in just about all religions. Certainly in Buddhism, Hinduism/yoga, Judaism and Catholicism.

    Can the teacher explicitly explain something? No. Understanding and comprehension, in Buddhism, comes from personal experience and awareness ... developed slowly over year/decades/lifetimes of doing the practices.

    Yet I have had the experience of imagining what a Lama's Tibetan chanting was saying/meaning (Tibetan pujas tend to be about describing visualizations) ... and finding out when it was translated into English at the end of the ritual that my imaginations were what he had been actually chanting. And since I am no more psychic than a clump of dirt, that coincidence didn't come from ME.
    Transmission of some sort? Perhaps coincidence, perhaps actual. I cannot deny that it occurred, but I cannot explain the mechanism or even if there was a mechanism involved.

    As for understanding emptiness, it is not the same as nothingness. But no teacher can explain it to you ... we once sat through 45 minutes at the Q&A period after a lecture from a Tibetan Tulku because a student was trying to have emptiness explained in words. That Tulku was so kind and patient, and he gave an excellent example/lesson in how to be kind and patient as a Buddhist.
    But the student did not get his question answered.
    Because the understanding of Buddhism comes from experience, from the mindfulness of doing your practices and the mindfulness as you go through you day. Insights that slowly dawn on us.

    The best explanation I have ever heard was that "emptiness" means that reality is not what we think it is ... that reality is "empty" of our self-imposed ignorant view of how things "are".
    And this does not negate what we DO experience. Someone asked our teacher if it was true we are not real ... he thought briefly and replied, "If you think you aren't real, try slamming a car door on your hand and THEN try to say it's not real."
    So what you and I experience as normal is both real and yet not the ultimate reality. But it is left up to us to discover WHAT that reality might be.

    Understanding Buddhism does not come from intellectual manipulations. We try very hard to force understanding, perhaps because it gives us a false sense of security/safety (I know it operates this way for me).
    I saved this quote because it is useful to me to remember:
    “Holding onto any truth blocks true wisdom. The truth could knock on our door and we would not see it because of our fixed ideas. “
    (Pema Chodron quote)

    The whole process of Buddhism is finding the courage to let go and open up, and then to relax into whatever we open up. It may be an uncomfortable passing emotion we have .. or it may involve those existential insecurities that plague all of humanity, including the anxiety and uncertainty of NOT having answers about Life.
    Buddhism encourages us to open to these feelings, and then to relax into them rather than trying to "fix" them by slapping some intellectual "answer" over the pain. Or by taking some ameliorative action (the Five Precepts Vows keep us from automatically avoiding our pain by taking some type of action).
    The skills opening and relaxing skill come "little bit by little bit" over years and decades of dedicated Practice. Cultivate patience, since it makes the slowness more tolerable.

    lobstermisecmisc1JeffreyDhammaDragon
  • Very apt explanation @FoibleFull
    Many thanks.

    It is the transmission of behavour, the observance of being, the unfoldment of qualities. Not words, not book learning. I sometimes use the word 'resonance' - attuning to the Way ...

  • paulysopaulyso usa Veteran

    like a spiritual resonance?sometimes my skin and hair --all around my head--resonate when percieved hearing a spiritual song like the return to innocence by enigma.the native american heart attune to the great spirit,i adore--daoifyed and dharmafyed in the dharmakeyawe,in my opinionated point of view.

  • Intermission

    Donut sing of silence
    before the thronged
    Be-raw my Lions
    know god of dog

    no zen shits here

    no Buddha’s stool
    no laminated lamas
    yoga yogurts
    no pious poop of pope
    no is slam of lala

    to last at leased
    religion is ever lost

    ... and now back to the transmission ...

  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem Recidivist Samsarist Veteran

    Bodhidharma had a particular opinion of transmission of Wisdom.
    And it was not dependent on any outside aid: just a direct seeing into one's Essence of Mind or Buddhahood:

    "A special transmission outside the Scriptures,
    No dependence upon words and letters;
    Direct pointing to the hearrt of man;
    Seeing into one's own nature"

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