Twirling a Flower

The Question of FormNoelle Oxenhandler

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Shakyamuni twirls a flower. Mahakashyapa smiles.

You might say that this first transmission from teacher to disciple is the beginning of form for Buddhism: the infinite vastness of awakened mind expressed in the utter particularness of this hand, this flower.

Or you might say that this spontaneous gesture, which can be rediscovered but never duplicated, is the very opposite of what is meant by form—if by form you mean a reservoir of previously used particulars, a museum of words and movements made valuable by virtue of being well worn, passed down from hand to hand, from mouth to mouth.

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