It’s impossible to address the questions “Who am I? What is truth? What is reality? What is life and what is death?” without commitment, without spirit, without great determination, great faith, and great doubt—in other words, hard work. Zen Buddhism is a teaching that turns us inside out, that enters our guts, that transforms from the inside out. It’s no small thing. It requires implicit permission and trust. But if the question is not alive, it doesn’t work. If there’s no trust, it doesn’t work. If there’s no determination, it doesn’t work.
You can’t come into a place like this monastery and say, “Do me. Enlighten me.” Only you can do it. There’s no teacher on the face of the earth, including the Buddha himself, who could do it for you. So if you’re not hopping and jumping, alive with vitality and spirit and ready to throw yourself into it whole body and mind, it simply does not happen.
Although “the treasury of the eye of the truth is always given and received by oneself,”—you give it to yourself and you receive it from yourself—still it requires practice, realization, and actualization. That’s what you find when you make your way through the layers of conditioning and arrive at the ground of being. Practice, realization, and actualization. And in order to get there, you need the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, in other words, the teacher, the teachings, and the community of practitioners.
“The treasury of the eye of truth is always given and received by oneself.” There has never been anything given to another; there has never been anything received from another. This is called the truth of the buddhadharma. This being the case, “How can the meeting on Vulture Peak be anywhere but here?”
“But say, what is the family secret revealed by Deshan?” That’s an important secondary point in this koan. If you see the first point, you should be able to understand the family secret. Some people call it the family shame. What is the family shame? Wumen said:
A flower is held up
and the secret has been revealed.
Kashyapa breaks into a smile
and the whole assembly is lost.
The Capping Verse:
The spiritual potential of the thousand sages
is not easily attained.
Dragon daughters and sons, do not be irresolute—
ten thousand miles of pure wind,
only you can know it.
Only you can know. No one can tell you about it. No one can give it to you. You can’t receive it from anyone. That’s why questions like, “If we’re already enlightened, why do we have to do anything?” come up. But keep in mind that our inherent perfection is buried. Although we begin in Buddhism with the premise that all beings are perfect and complete, lacking nothing—that is, we begin with original perfection—the fact is that it needs to be realized.