Early in October, the Providence Zen Center hosted the Whole World is a Single Flower conference, which brought together members of our sangha from all around the world. During the weekend we all heard many interesting tales of Zen center life from Singapore to Fairbanks to Warsaw. In Korea, I learned they have a saying: If you scratch an Asian Christian, underneath you will find a Buddhist; if you scratch a western Buddhist you will find a Christian. That’s funny–it’s a reflection of our world situation–but it’s very important to find what lies deeper, what we are before Christian, Buddhist, Asian, Western even appears.
My mother was born an identical twin. That means that she and my aunt were genetically identical. However, even though they were the same they were also very different. My mother had one husband and two children, while my aunt had several husbands and no children. My mother spent most of her life taking care of our home while my aunt was a professional woman and was an early espouser of feminist sentiment. When my mother died, I asked Zen Master Seung Sahn why it was that even though they both started out the same, they were so different. His answer was very simple — “thinking!”
Nations are also like that: they start out the same but then they become quite different. Sometimes they become very attached to these differences and start fighting. But our school’s “don’t know” teaching has none of that. The clarity and genius of Zen Master Seung Sahn is that he never teaches opinions, religion or culture, so our “don’t know” can travel anywhere in the world and help all people realize their original compassionate nature. If we keep don’t know mind, we are all identical twins even though we are different!
Fifty years ago Ko Bong Zen Master gave transmission to Zen Master Seung Sahn, saying “You are the flower and I am the bee.” But, if the whole world is a single flower, then who is the bee?