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Shunryu Suzuki on transmission
and some comments by DC

put together in response to some comments in  Myth of the Zen Roshi

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When the small mind finds its correct place in our big mind, then there is peace - everything is our large mind. "Transmission" of this big mind occurs with no loss "of even a speck of dust" by the master, and no gain "of even a thread" by the now awakened disciple. This is because everyone is already within his big self.- Shunryu Suzuki - Sunday, March 26, 1967

"Transmission is nothing special."- Shunryu Suzuki - some other times

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These two quotes give us a picture of the ideal and the real of transmission. Shunryu Suzuki said once that transmission was a cover for the teaching to keep it warm, to stop it from getting dusty. But as some writers have pointed out, the cover itself can get dusty and cold. Suzuki said that when he got lonely he'd talk to his assistant, Dainin Katagiri about transmission and say, "When will American people understand transmission?" and they'd laugh. I think they were laughing at how we tended to see it only in the ideal terms that are presented in the Buddhist literature. Suzuki said, laughing, that usually when we receive transmission, we don't have the faintest idea of what it is. He said it's not like getting a license to drive where you can actually drive the car - adding that maybe years later you'll get a hint of what it's about and cry as you offer incense to your departed master. And he indicated that when you pass the transmission on, you just do the best you can and hope it works out. And maybe you don't know what you're doing then either. He said that Buddhism is passed from warm hand to warm hand, but it seems to me it's also passed from deluded mind to deluded mind. People do their best.

Flawed people in flawed institutions will be receiving and passing on the seal of transmission in Buddhism (just like it's done by the Catholic Church with their apostolic succession) and some will see it all myopically, idealistically and others will not worry about it too much and will do their best and go about their lives, but there will be others who point out the flaws and fallacies and hypocrisies and everyone will be taking everything very seriously. It's hard not to do. While we're trying to get things straight, let us keep in mind the Firesign Theater's admonition: "We're all bozos on this bus."

We get the ideal and the real mixed up. The ideal points to our deepest reality, The real is always messy. But it's the deepsest reality too. When those in the real pretend to be ideal they will get in trouble. We try to keep in mind that we're above no one else, but it seems that there has to be a continual process of humiliation in response to our continuing process of arrogance. But the humiliators should be careful too because while we're humiliating others we become narrow, rigid, and arrogant and then we too inevitably will fall into the inescapable vat of our own humiliation.


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