Laugh if you will, but up till yesterday I had never heard of the “Flower Sermon”, possibly because no words were exchanged, it is believed. The story itself is not so much a story, but feels much more like a koan. My new friend Chuck brought it up and gave me a brief idea of what went down. I did some more research and here is what I surmise based on the research.
Before the Buddha’s passing, he and his disciples went to a quiet pond for a teaching. They all sat and patiently waited for the Buddha to speak.
He sat for a moment, quiet as could be. He reached down to the earth and pulled a lotus flower from the mud. It was covered and dripping with the mud.
The Buddha sat for a moment, patiently looking at the flower, twirling it a bit in his fingers.
He held it in his hands for all to see. Most of the disciples were uncertain of what was happening and waited for an explanation. They did not receive one.
He stood up and and began to show it to every person. They were still unsure of what was going on.
He made his way to his follower, Mahakashyapa, and he could sense his understanding. Mahakashyapa smiled and began to chuckle. The Buddha handed the lotus to Mahakashyapa and thus, had taken him as his disciple.
Now, I’m not 100% on the reasoning behind this teaching, but a beautiful thing, such as a lotus, coming from something as uninviting as mud is always an inspiration. Suffering, in and of itself, is just as repulsive as mud. With a little clarity, that mud begins to wash away. In the end, when it has all washed away, we are left with something beautiful. This story gives me hope that we all may reach this level of lucidity in our lives.