The practice-enlightenment of all Buddhas past, present, and future: Dharma Transmission
It is important to remember that Zen practice-enlightenment has nothing to do with enacting or following a revealed path. Attempting to discover, proclaiming to understand, or worse, represent or teach “the authentic (revealed, true, supreme, etc.) path of Zen” clearly demonstrates a fallacious presupposition concerning the nature of Zen – this false presupposition is that Zen is a finished product.
A “revealed” or “authentic” path is, by definition, a fixed path. Thus, while it may be true that the majority of those who identify themselves as “Zen practitioners” do follow clearly circumscribed, fixed paths, it is not to this majority that the classic Zen literature refers to as “Zen practitioners.”
Like that of other great spiritual traditions, the literature of Zen cautions students to avoid idolatry – that is, attachment to practices or doctrines. In doing so, it particularly focuses on how true study differs from submission to authority and or the mere acquirement of knowledge. Briefly, “true study” is presented as an ongoing pursuit of truth (Dharma for the sake of Dharma), while “submission” and “acquirement” are portrayed as idolatry (i.e. dedicating oneself to a “fixed form,” that is, a particular form, authorized version, dogmatic code, or other fixed formula of “Zen”).
Zen masters are only interested in liberating beings from suffering. They are not at all concerned with motivating people to become Buddhists, but in motivating people to become Buddhas (i.e. fully enlightened, thus fully liberated, beings). Therefore, the classic literature aims only to transmit the authentic path of Zen which is envisioned as a ceaseless-advance, not a finished product.
Zen practice-enlightenment is actualization – “making actual” not “already made” – it is the ongoing activity of becoming Buddha, not being a Buddha (much less a Buddhist). As revealed by the “ten times” doctrine of Huayen Buddhism, and even more comprehensively by Dogen’s teaching of “uji” (existence-time), the ever-ongoing dynamic nature Zen practice-enlightenment is facilitated by the unification of energies between past Zen ancestors and ourselves. This unified ceaseless advance is envisioned by the classic Zen masters as the communication of enlightened wisdom (bodhi prajna, or prajna paramita) from Buddha to Buddha which came to be known in the Zen tradition as “Dharma transmission,” “mind to mind transmission,” or, Dogen’s preferred term, “(the transmission of Dharma) from Buddhas alone together with Buddhas” (yui-butsu-yobutsu).