for anyone who doesn't know that is a line from a very famous zen/chan statement traditionally attributed to bodhidharma. here it is in full:
"a special transmission outside the scriptures,
not founded upon words and letters.
by pointing directly to one's mind,
It lets one see into one's own true nature and thus attain buddhahood."
then there is the emphasis on the flower sermon,
so again, we have the same thing. this implies zen enlightenment is transmitted from teacher to student by use of telepathy,
i would love to hear some peoples own ideas about what these statements means and what "transmission" is really about.
and then there's the "not founded upon words..." thing, and the thing where the buddha didn't even speak and mahakasyapa got it, so it is very firmly opposed to written, or even spoken, zen as having any function or merit whatsoever and implies that any buddhism that is not this kind of telepathic transmission is not "the true dharma eye" entrusted to mahakasyapa and brought down through millennium to bodhidharma on so on.
when you pigeon hole a tradition to be only valid when it's transmitted by telepathy it seems to make things a little difficult, no?
I don't see it that way at all. It has nothing to do with telepathy, but rather simply seeing your own true nature for yourself. The flower sermon for example. The Buddha did not transmit anything to Mahakasyapa. But rather, Mahakasyapa understood what the Buddha meant when he held up the flower because Mahakasyapa had already seen
his true nature and already
understood it. Mahakasyapa "got it" because he already understood it before the Buddha even held up the flower to begin with.
it seems to imply that one can only learn zen from a teacher who has received transmission of it from someone else.
It's more like "You can only learn the truth of zen from seeing your own true nature" and to look for it outside yourself, AKA in books, etc, is a mistake. My teacher says this about the transmission that you speak of. He says "Nothing that I can say can help you".
In other words, the only thing that will really help you is seeing your true nature for yourself, the truth of which is inexpressible with "words and letters".