Transmission, Teachings and Lineage

When I speak here of transmission, I am speaking about a spontaneous and non-conceptual shining forth of Truth that is consciously recognized or received by Itself. The term may be used to describe the way the flame of truth appears silently and subtly to touch, resonate, and awaken itself in the exchange between teacher and student. The "touch" of awakeness on itself can be profound. Transmission in this sense is not something a "someone" gives or receives from a "someone else." It is the way the silent awake Presence that we are meets itself, gives and receives itself in its apparent manifestations. In actuality, everyone is continually transmitting what is true in the moment—be it conflict or peace, love or division, confusion or enlightened Being.

Student and teacher find each other in whatever way they do. A student may be searching for a teacher or a teacher may spontaneously appear when the student is ready; but in either movement, teacher and student discover one another and seem drawn by and to a shared energy field. (This can occur in many fields of life's expressions—music, visual arts, martial arts, dance, literature, calligraphy, philosophy, sports, finance, medicine, etc. But it is in the field of spiritual inquiry that I direct attention here.) In truth, the apparent "two" are both students of one another and teachers to one another in the singularity of Life. It is only in the Dream that they are perceived as separate.

The spiritual teacher or guru may be in or out of human form, but since what is transmitted has nothing to do with personhood, it does not really matter to the formless Truth that is moving as itself in its own experience of Being. Transmission is not about a teacher's shakti or placing a teacher above yourself to worship or love. It is much more subtle than human emotions, comparisons or energies. Ultimately, it is a seeing of the "sameness" inherent in both student and teacher--indeed, all of life. Verbal teachings, as they relate to the phenomenon of transmission, are merely a means for conveying and inviting the deeper Silence of our undivided true nature to reveal itself.

Of course, teachings, whether they are attached to a particular tradition or not, can be received in many ways. A teaching can be received by a curious intellect, by an ego wanting mainly entertainment, by a heart that sincerely seeks the truth, or by the truth within that resonates deeply and energetically with what comes through the teaching. In this latter experience, one can experience what we might call the transmission of a lineage. It is obvious to those who experience such a resonance, yet is not something that can be manufactured or taken to be the only way truth reveals itself. The lineage may be a time-bound lineage, such as occurs in many religions—Tibetan Rinpoches, Zen Masters, Catholicism's Popes, for example. The energetic resonance may also occur in a type of lineage that is not bound by time or tradition but rather is seen as a transmission of freedom or truth unbound from dogma or beliefs. It may seem to esoterically reveal elements that may be linked to various traditions or to none.

In speaking about lineage, my teacher Adyashanti described it like this:

Lineage is a particular type of resonant energy field. That's part of what you experience when you resonate with a teacher—the transmission of that lineage. Lineage is an energetic open space that can help open you to the revelation of reality, of who you really are. That's part of a teaching and a teacher, if they are true, real. It will have that esoteric quality. It is a deeply, energetic opening.

(From a talk given by Adyashanti on Café Dharma, November 14, 2012)

Ramana Maharshi was drawn to a mountain, Arunachala, which appeared to him as Guru; and many have been drawn to Ramana as Guru or as teacher. While a silent transmission was powerfully emanating through Ramana's form in his lifetime, such transmission seems to have increased and expanded greatly since his mahasamadhi. (Death of the physical body of a guru). Ramana never authorized anyone to teach, yet many feel drawn to a type of lineage that shares the sense of Ramana appearing as Guru. Ramana's paramount teaching was, and continues to be, Silence, a silence that can dissolve separation.

In Zen, as well as other forms of Buddhism, there exists what is called Dharma transmission, where a Master chooses a successor, or authorizes a student to share the dharma as a teacher. It is said that the entire lineage of Zen has been transmitted Mind-to-Mind, from Shakyamuni Buddha to the present day. There are many beautiful examples of such genuine transmission that seem to come, not from the decision of a human mind, but from the inner knowing that reveals itself to itself through the teacher-student relationship. However, as many in various traditions can attest, dharma transmission has not always been based on the depth of awakening in the student, but sometimes on the length of practice, or on other factors such as family lineage, patronage, expedience, politics, etc. While this can occur where truth is only partially realized, or actually feigned, in its genuine transmission, Truth moves mysteriously, yet clearly, to reveal a lineage that exists and continues beyond time.

Adyashanti spent many, many years both sitting zazen and studying Zen Buddhism before awakening out of any tradition. He was drawn to study Nisargadatta's teachings, other non-dual teachings, the wisdom of the Christian mystics, and of course, the history and teachings of innumerable Zen Masters. While Adya's Zen teacher of many years asked him to share the dharma, and Adya asked me and others to do the same, this lineage is not a time-bound lineage that implies a religion or requires belief in a particular tradition or body of teachings. Like a Banyan tree that has many different "locations" for its roots to connect to the ground, the teachers in this lineage seem to have had many different paths of connecting to our shared Ground of truth. And yet, there has been the energetic opening to a lineage that may not be able to be precisely defined by a religious tradition, but seems to exist beyond such a definition. Being asked to share the dharma is a deeply touching movement that affirms what is already realized, already happening, already true.

In Adyashanti's understanding of teaching and "teachers," once one has been asked to teach, the person is on his own, encouraged to follow the truth as it appears moment to moment, to stay deeply true to one's integrity, to allow the Truth to find its own unique voice and share it, based on authentic experience, not dogma or written words. There is no overseeing, no sharing of mailing lists, no legal responsibility for another. We cannot come to Truth without confronting our own Aloneness, which is also our own "all oneness." Enlightenment entails standing on our own two feet. What made certain teachers great and enduring in history was frequently their willingness to break with traditional ways of thinking based on their own deep inquiries, observations and insights.

Whether or not one is "asked" to teach in any particular lineage, each of us is always teaching something. Are we teaching kindness or impatience, love or fear, acceptance of Life's wisdom or refusal of it, enlightened living or egoic living? These are questions we must look into if we are sincere in our desire to live from our realizations.

While there is much more that could be said about transmission, teachings and lineage, this overview is an attempt to clarify how it seems to move in the experience here. And with this as an introduction, it is my pleasure to introduce John Prendergast, who I have recently asked to share the dharma as a teacher in this lineage of truth and freedom.

© Dorothy Hunt, 2012