It’s said that the Buddha gave 84.000 different teachings. This is probably just a symbolic number which means: a vast many. Different teachings were given to different people, different disciples, different inquirers, different seekers according to their need which in a sense was according to, you might say, the question that was upper most, the particular kōan of their life.
The Buddha shaped his teaching to the needs of each person in this way. So, in one sense, there are 84.000 different teachings because there were 84.000 different people. In another sense, there is only one teaching: all 84.000 teachings point back to the same thing.
Nonetheless, a particular teaching was given to a particular person on a particular occasion. That person became a transmitter of that teaching, or, you might say, of that window into the central teaching. If there is only one teaching then all of these individual teachings are like windows into the one central teaching of the Dharma.
So, you have many different teachers, each with a different transmission which they have received from the Buddha; and they then transmit that into the next generation and the next generation and so on. So, Buddhism is a transmission of individual teachings but all point back to one Dharma. They all point back to the nembutsu. Nembutsu is central.
A person might take on the nembutsu and understand it in a very vague sort of way, and then they receive the transmission of some teaching which helps them to understand it more deeply; and then, perhaps they receive the transmission of another teaching, which also gives them a deeper understanding, another dimension, another angle from which to look at, approach, understand the Dharma incapsulated in the nembutsu. So, in this sense we can say, the core of the teaching remains the same and ideally that core is what is transmitted. In practice, individual teachings are transmitted.
One grasps this aspect or that aspect or another aspect like the many facets of a diamond. All of the facets are part of one diamond yet each one is special in its own way. So, when there is a transmission of a teaching a person is getting one facet of the diamond. Now, when you look through that facet, in principle you can see all the other facets and you can see into the heart of the diamond. In practice, people probably pick up a number of different teachings before they get a full sense of this.
Transmission of teachings is like that and each teaching that one receives is like a very precious gift. It is one piece of the diamond in which all the other pieces are reflected. So, when people receive a teaching in this way, this is not just an education in some intellectual matter. It’s a precious thing that is passed from teacher to disciple, that is shared by those people who receive that particular teaching, the people who share in a single transmission, there is a bond between them. There is also a sacred trust, a hope that they will be able to pass on this teaching to future generations. And they pass it on both by teaching and by embodying the teaching that they are giving.
So, this is how Buddhism is transmitted through a series of transmissions which, in ultimate principle, is only the transmission of the heart of the Dharma, which is the nembutsu, but in practice is the transmission of many separate teachings that people learn, receive and pass on. All coming together as one precious jewel.
Namo Amida Bu
Thank you very much