When we look at a piece of iron that has not been magnetized and one that has we really cannot see the difference between the two. It is only when we put the two together that we see a difference. One piece has a magnetic power the other does not.
The reason that I bring this up is because too much emphasis is typically placed on ‘external attributes’ of the enlightened Zen master. This person wears robes, check. He or she has a Dharma transmission certificate, check. This person can sit in zazen for a long time, check. This person smiles a lot and seems very friendly, check. People like this person, check.
But as with the example of the magnetic iron, the real transmission claimed by Zen is invisible. Neither robes nor a Dharma transmission certificate mean anything. You can’t see what is transmitted but you can sense a strong magnetic field of a realized master. It’s not a little faint amount but a strong amount. After all, seeing our true nature is tapping into the power of Mind, itself.
I am sure this comes as a surprise to some only because their teachers never told them anything about this. This is the first time they’ve heard that awakening to our true nature is awakening to a kind of mysterious dynamic state which is unchanging in sharp contrast to everything else that is always changing.
From this mysterious vantage point we can watch our physical being mature and grow old like a fig ripening on the Ficus religiosa. We just realized that we are this great tree and not so much the fig that will drop one day. We stand with the old masters having passed through Zen’s barrier 關.