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Buddhadharma : Summer 2011
buddhadharma| 51 |winter 2005 The teacher is not scheming, “How can I pull the rug out from under her?” The teacher is just going about his or her own business, in accord with dharma. The student will feel the rug disappearing because of the gap between the student’s ordinary perspective and the perspective of the teacher. One will have that experience over and over again, and if the relationship is strong and the stu- dent is motivated, that gap, and the feeling of the rug disappearing, will be instructive time and time again. It will be a path of training and understand- ing, just as Rinpoche is saying. All this is possible because the teacher is not an outside object of desire. The teacher is one’s own nature, which is identical with the Buddha. That is the final stage that the relationship is moving toward: seeing the teacher as one’s own basic nature. On the way to that point, we have all sorts of kleshas and problems that become a beneficial path of training. This transformation of our nor- mal experiences can occur because it all happens in the context of our dharma practice. In Zen, we would say everything and everyone is your teacher. Your relationship with your dharma teacher shows you the truth of that. shaRon salzbeRg: When we take refuge in the Buddha, we are taking refuge in the supreme teacher. By doing so, we’re not admiring an exter- nalized being. We are acknowledging something that is obscured within us. We’re also seeing some- thing about the nature of all sentient beings. So the relationship with the teacher is never simply about us or the teacher. It is also universal. The teacher doesn’t exist to be admired by us but to point us back to our innate nature. In order to draw out our true nature, the teacher uses many methods, or skillful means. Can you give us some example of the various ways in which the teacher transmits the dharma? PonloP RinPoche: Often, we see teachers in a very formal situation, in a big hall in a very wonderful chair on the stage. They speak wonderful dharma, and we receive great transmissions. But to apply the dharma to everyday life is another story altogether. One way we begin to bring the dharma into every- day life is by serving the teacher, which is a unique experience, especially when you have an authentic teacher. Whatever they do accords with the dharma, so they are teaching all the time, whether they have any spoken dharma to impart or not. Serving a meal, for example, involves a lot of mindfulness, and in that situation you experience Face-to-Face transmission Dogen on the nature and power of lineage. face-to-face transmission means between buddhas’ and ancestors’ faces. when shakyamuni buddha was in the assembly of kashyapa buddha, he received it from kashyapa buddha and has continued this transmission. there are no buddhas without face-to-face transmission from the buddha face. shakyamuni buddha, by seeing mahakashyapa, intimately entrusted him with it. ananda or rahula are not equal to mahakashyapa, who received the inti- mate entrustment. nor are all the great bodhisattvas, who are unable to sit in mahakashyapa’s seat. the world-honored one and mahakashyapa sat together on the same seat and wore the same robe. this occurred only once in buddha’s life. thus venerable mahakashyapa received the world-honored one’s transmission directly, face to face, mind to mind, body to body, and eye to eye. mahakashyapa respect- fully regarded shakyamuni buddha while making offerings and bowing formally. thousands of times mahakashyapa had pounded his bones and crushed his body. his face was no longer his own. thus he received the tathagata’s face by means of face-to-face transmission. • shakyamuni buddha saw venerable mahakashyapa in person. Venerable mahakashyapa saw venerable ananda in person, and venerable ananda bowed formally to venerable mahakashyapa’s buddha face. this is face-to-face trans- mission. Venerable ananda maintained this face-to-face transmission, closely guided shanavasa and transmitted face to face. when venerable shanavasa respectfully saw venerable ananda, he was given face-to-face transmission and received face-to-face transmission, just face to face. thus, the authentic ancestors of all generations have continued face-to-face transmission, disciple seeing teacher, and teacher seeing disciple. an ancestor, a teacher, or disciple cannot be a buddha or an ancestor without having face- to-face transmission. it is like pouring water into the ocean and spreading it endlessly, or like trans- mitting the lamp and allowing it to shine forever. in thousands of millions of transmissions, the trunk and branches are one, breaking an eggshell by pecking from the inside and outside at once. from Moon in a Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master Dogen, edited by kazuaki tanahashi. copyright © 1985 by the san francisco zen center. reprinted by permission of north point press, a division of farrar, straus and giroux.