The Blue Cliff Records
A monk asked Ummon, "What is the teaching of the Buddha's lifetime?"
Ummon said, "Preaching facing oneness."
A Zen master delivers a sermon facing an image of the Buddha. Facing the image of the Buddha, a monk is reminded of the nature of the Buddha's
accomplishment; therefore this koan is, on its surface, a reminder of
the nature of enlightenment.
Enlightenment is perfect understanding, without judgement or ego.
As Christmas Humphreys put it, "to expand the heart to Oneness and beyond;
such is the meaning of Enlightenment, for the Buddha-Mind is one with the
One of the taints (asavas) the Buddha discovered during his awakening
beneath the Bodhi tree is the addiction to views -- in fact, the holding
of any views at all. In overcoming this addiction, the Buddha illustrated
the fault's source: the illusion of the ego. In the elimination of
the self, the world becomes a unity, as the idea of the perpetual subject and
object fades away.
The Buddha also spoke of a mysterious, endless source of energy, of which
the material world was an outpouring; deathless, present in all beings,
conscious but unable to know itself. In facing oneness, the Buddha began
to identify himself by his connection to this source, in which he sought to
Taken another way, the koan is an example of the Mahayana doctrine of the
Bodhisattva Ideal. It is not simply saying that one must acknowledge the
Buddha's accomplishments and teachings ("facing oneness"), but that he has taught us to
preach these lessons.
A Bodhisattva, a figure unique to the Mahayana school of Buddhism, is one
who has achieved enlightenment and has the ability to free himself from
samsara but who rejects this release in favor of helping others.
In this way, it is a reminder of the value of compassion; the Bodhisattva
is reborn not through the pull of bad karma but out of love for all beings
and an empathy that draws him back to the world.