‘As we continue on the path, we will awaken to the reality that our entire life and practice is not something that we do alone. We understand that our practice is a gift to us from all beings and a gift that we give to all beings. This is the ultimate truth of our life. Perfect wisdom is the thorough understanding of this generosity – a state wherein we meet the Buddha teaching the dharma face-to-face. (Entering The Mind Of Buddha)
If you are wondering how practice is a gift from all beings, I remembered, as I typed out this paragraph, a talk from my earlies days at Zen Center. A student of Reb’s who was receiving dharma transmission said that he had asked her what she thought about the ancestors (those who have transmitted the teachings). She confessed that she hadn’t thought so much about them.
One of the ceremonies leading up to transmission is reciting the names of all the ancestors in the lineage daily, and bowing to them. I always loved reciting the list at services – we do all ninety-odd names of the male lineage daily at Tassajara (without the prostration for each one, though the doshi, representing the assembly, bows a number of times) and I made an effort to memorise the whole list as soon as I could.
And as the names become familiar, you start to wonder about their stories, what prompted them to seek the practice, to teach, and to ordain their students, and you realise what a huge task the transmission of the teachings has been over the past twenty-five hundred years. Of course we are grateful for this gift, that this wisdom has made it (intact, I trust) all the way to us, across the centuries and many cultures, and the least we can do is to ensure that it thrives and that the transmission continues.