An ancient story:
Once there was a Master who understood the ways of mind better than most, who understood the myriad ways that his disciples could destroy his teaching after he was gone. He did everything he could to insulate the teaching from distortion and calcification.
Nearing the end of his life, he created a device in order to allow the great battle over his name to play out within the first generation of disciples. One of his last teachings was about the essential nature being – that of no-name/no-form. He dropped his name completely. But this created problems for those who would continue to publish the books and recordings of his years of talks. So, he allowed himself to be referred to as “The Nameless One.” And soon there was great work in changing all the books from his old name to being authored by “The Nameless One.” Soon his disciples would chant in great fervor, “Hail to ‘The Nameless One.’” From a distance one could not but help but see the irony. Certainly, it was much more difficult the closer one was.
After the Master left the body, the situation slowly began to change. Little by little cracks appeared within the unity of his community. For utilitarian purposes, the organization charged with carrying on the work of publishing his teachings, was forced into the absurd position of copyrighting the name “The Nameless One” in order to preserve the integrity of his talks. Otherwise, anyone would be able to publish whatever they wanted in the name of “The Nameless One.”
And slowly over time, those within the organization began to believe in the actual existence of the name “The Nameless One” which they were trying to protect. They wanted to also trademark “The Nameless One” so that no one would be able to do anything in the name of “The Nameless One” without their permission, all the while failing to see the absurdity of the situation.
Having been schooled in awakening by the Master, the disciples were not ones to dutifully abide by the proclamations of the organization. They now began to argue, question, and challenge the authority to control the use of the name of “The Nameless One.” Within no time there were court cases and great public debate all concerning using the name of “The Nameless One.”
Soon, discussion and debate developed over even the meaning of “The Nameless One.” One camp proclaimed that it meant “the One without a name” and another camp declared that it meant that “there is no name for the One.”
Over time these divisions became more and more pronounced. There were even personal attacks on the character of each of the camps. And each camp sincerely believed that they were doing what the “The Nameless One” would have wanted them to do.
This great battle went on for years without pause until one day without explanation a few of the disciples in their meditation saw the absurdity of the quarrel. And in those moments of insight the entire conflict just disappeared. Slowly, slowly this awakening began to spread throughout the community and soon the lawsuits disappeared, the hostility towards each other evaporated, and the members were once again pursuing the realization of their own “Nameless One.”
In the following generations the divisions never arose again having played out so completely within the first generation of disciples. Oh, what a genius this Master is.
This post is from a collection of essays, stories, insights and poems that have occurred to me along the Way titled From Lemurs to Lamas: Confessions of a Bodhisattva.