The next line says, "Daily encounters have always been the hallmark of Zen training because they provide unlimited opportunities for teaching." While students tend to prepare for dokusan or daisan, casual encounters are unscripted, and that's where the best teachings usually take place. Another way is through body teaching. When I first started training, no one told me anything. Every time I made a mistake, someone yelled, and then I would correct the mistake. There was no instruction, not even zazen instruction. I got my zazen instruction by asking questions of the teacher in dokusan. So I just looked at what everybody else was doing and tried to cross my legs the same way. And I sat there thinking. But little by little, through observation, I slowly began to assimilate what it meant to be a practitioner. This kind of learning is very much like what takes place between a master artist and apprentice. The work of an apprentice entails preparing canvases, mixing paint, cleaning up afterwards and just watching. The teaching happens more through osmosis than direct instruction. It's a very gradual and often unconscious absorption of knowledge through continual exposure rather than deliberate learning. It's very difficult for this process to happen when students are focused on a goal or worried about progress. "Where am I going? How far is it? How long will it take me to get there?"
"Body teaching" is one of the important contributions that a sangha, or community of practitioners, can make. It's about learning from each other. In the West we tend to learn from books more than from each other, and the problem is there's no screening process for books other than a publisher. Publishers are in busi ness to sell books, and they will publish any book that they think will sell. They don't need to agree with it, they don't need to analyze it. And somehow being published lends authenticity to what's been written, whether it's true or not. When you're working within a sangha on the other hand—particularly within a monastic setting—it becomes pretty clear who the seniors students are and that it's reasonably safe to ask them questions and expect the answers to be in accord with the teachings. So just because you read something in a book doesn't mean that it's the true dharma.
"Guishan challenged Yangshan to show his original self, and without a moment's hesitation Yangshan shook the tea tree." What is Guishan asking here?
What is your original self? Is it the same as original face—the face you had before your parents were born? When the Sixth Ancestor of Zen, Huineng, received dharma transmission from his teacher Hongren, it is said that monk Myo tried to take the robe and bowl from him. Instead of fighting, Huineng placed them both on a rock and said, "Go ahead, take the robe and bowl. They are given in trust and faith. They can't be taken by force." Myo tried to lift them and couldn't. They were as immovable as a rock. He broke into a sweat, fell to his knees and said, "I come here for the dharma, not for the robe. Please teach me." And the Sixth Ancestor said, "What is the original face of monk Myo, the face you had before your parents were born?" At that Myo experienced a deep enlightenment. So what is the original, unconditioned self? It's not limited to this bag of skin. There's more to it than that. How much more?