We should be aware of the fact that Zen didn’t come to America from Japan or from China or from anywhere else. It’s always been here. It’s not something that can be imported. It’s not something that can be given. It’s not something that can be received. Buddha realized that all sentient beings have the buddha nature, which means we are all perfect and complete, lacking nothing. Practice is a matter of discovering this truth. Running around, here and there, what are we searching for? We assume that something is missing; that we’re lacking in some way.
Some people think that if we study with as many teachers as possible, try as many different practices as we can, then maybe we’ll get it. But that’s just another form of entertainment? dharma entertainment. We have to pick one practice and give ourselves to it with the whole body and mind. That’s the only way that we will plumb its depths.
Huangbo said, “Do you know that there are no teachers of Chan in all of China?” This doesn’t mean that we don’t need a teacher nor that everyone is a teacher. This is what is called “buji” or self-styled Zen. There being no Zen teachers means that the teacher has nothing to give you. When someone tells you he or she has something to give you, beware. Run for your life. You’re dealing with a charlatan. No one can give you anything because each one of us is already perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
In response to Huangbo’s teaching, a monastic steps forward and asks the obvious question, “Then what about those in various places who order followers and lead communities?” I ask you, is leading a community Zen? Is growing a garden Zen? Huangbo was saying that you have to realize it yourself. You need to do it yourself. You need to really be yourself, trust yourself. It’s not that there is no Zen, it’s just that it cannot be given and it can’t be received.
In various religions, there are different processes that are used to help people realize the truth about that particular tradition. In some religions there is a guru, a kind of spiritual guide to whom you basically surrender control of your life. The guru tells you what to do, how to do it, when to do it. And from this act of surrender, this act of giving up control of your life, you learn something. In Christianity, priests or ministers are representatives of God, intermediaries between the congregation and the divine being. They are also the interpreters of God’s teachings. None of this applies to the role of a Zen teacher. Shakyamuni Buddha, in forty-five years of teaching, never uttered a single world. The teaching that was transmitted from Buddha to Mahakayashapa was beyond words and ideas. It was direct, mind-to-mind transmission. But keep in mind that the word “transmission” implies something going from A to B. Yet that’s not what happens in Zen. B already has what A has. It just needs to be realized. When realization takes place, the mind-to-mind transmission is complete.
Bodhidharma, regarded as the founder of Zen, said that Zen is a special transmission outside the scriptures, with no reliance on words and letters. It’s a direct pointing to the human mind and the realization of buddhahood. In other words, the realization of one’s own enlightenment.