Zen Flower Power
Zen began with a flower.
Siddhārtha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism and regarded as the Supreme Buddha, once ascended to a teaching dais bearing a flower, said to be a lotus flower. Without saying a word, he raised the flower to his followers.
The net effect was to leave the lot of them staring dumbfounded, except for Maha Kashyapa, who would become the most revered of the Buddha's early disciples, who made a subtle smile.
What had the others expected? They were focusing on what the meaning of the flower must have been, what it represented, what kind of deeper truth it must have held for the Buddha to have focused such attention on it.
Let me begin with a simple proposition.
Sometimes a flower is just a flower.
In the context of Buddhist talk of the impermanence of happy things and the staying power of unhappy things from which we need liberation, and talk of reality as perceived by our eyes and minds being just an illusion, it's easy to dismiss a flower as irrelevant. That, really, was the Buddha's point: people expected rational creeds: analysis, scholasticism, doctrine, and intellectualism. The idea of communicating through the visual image of a flower's beauty was lost on people.
In fact, it wasn't really communicating through the image. It was communicating the image itself.
In other words, the flower's beauty wasn't the messenger; it was the message.
This leads me to my second proposition:
There is Truth in flowers.
I am not referring to our perception created by light rays hitting the back wall of our eyeballs, activating receptors that give a heads up to the brain. I am referring to the flower existing and being part of the natural world.
Many people spend a great deal of time rejecting what they don't like about the modern world; that is, the world humans build. Humans, however, did not build the natural world. The beauty of a flower is a wonder that we did not create. It exists apart from the structures invented and developed by our rational minds.Continued on the next page