The Buddha’s discourses implicitly affirm an unconditioned substantive principle but also instruct us in what is not substantive, namely, anâtman (= not the âtman) such as the Five Aggregates. According to the Buddha we should abandon conditionality which includes anâtman.
Because of this fact, Buddhism made possible the eventual development of Zen’s Mind to Mind transmission; Mind being unconditioned in sharp contrast with the temporal, conditioned mind which is always in a state of flux (âshrava).
The transmission of Mind is not by way of a lineal transmission from teacher to student insofar as Mind is universal—anyone can intuit this Mind with good karma and right effort. When the Mind to Mind transmission appears in the form of a lineal, teacher to student transmission, this becomes the dawn of ‘Zen fiction’ because the true Mind has never been, actually, given to another or received from another. To be sure, the somewhat romantic Zen stories we love to read are almost all fictional. They “almost certainly did not occur” according to John R. McRae (Seeing Through Zen, p 5).
The main purpose of Zen fiction, as I see it, is to draw our attention to the esoteric teaching of the Buddha which is about the realization of unconditioned Mind which should be obvious in literary works such as the Record of Transmitting the Light (Denkôroku) (Francis H. Cook’s translation is great).
We always need to keep in mind that according to Zen master Chung Feng, “Zen is the name of Mind. What is Mind? Mind is the substance of Zen.” Thus, Zen is really about the teaching and realization of Buddha Mind. This is what characterizes Zen: an awakening to this universal, unconditioned Mind.
As some of you are maybe aware, this is where The Zennist blog and Dark Zen differ with the institution of Zen. Zen Buddhism, as far as the Mind to Mind transmission is concerned, is authentic only insofar as those who claim to be Zen masters have actually awakened to the principle of Zen which is pure Mind (the awakening is the authentic transmission from the Buddha). All else is accessory and subject to suspicion. It tied to Zen fiction.