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The Smile of Mahakashyapa

One day the Buddha stood before 1250 monks, help up a flower, and stood in silence. There was a long pause, until one of his students, Mahakashyapa, smiled. The Buddha smiled back and said, “Today I have transmitted a treasure of insight to Mahakashyapa.”

What did he mean? What was this treasure of insight?

Through the centuries, many Buddhists have tried to explain this. They have said things like, the Buddha is pointing to the ontological ground. They said other complicated and deep things.

But perhaps the answer is really much more direct. Direct is in keeping with the spirit of Buddhism. Maybe when someone shows you a flower, he wants you to see the flower. Mahakashyapa saw the flower, and smiled.

Can we see the flower? Can we really see the flower? Can we see the cloud, the beautiful eyes of a child, a precious bird in flight? Or do we just glance at it enough to confirm, oh yes, that’s a bird. That’s a flower. That’s a cloud. Or perhaps we don’t even notice these things at all, since we are caught up in getting things done and in our worries.

Can you smile the smile of Mahakashyapa? It’s easy. Just take a moment to see.

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