When the Buddha was growing old he convened his disciples for an important discourse. And when they gathered and sat down silently, reverently waiting to hear their aging Master speak, the Buddha arose, came forward on the flower-decked platform, looked over his audience of disciples and monks, then bent down and picked up a flower which he raised to the level of his eyes.
Then, without uttering a word, he returned to his seat. His followers looked at each other in bewilderment, not understanding the meaning of his silence. Only the venerable Mahakasyapa serenely smiled at the Master. And the Master smiled back at him and wordlessly bequeathed to him the spiritual meaning of his wordless sermon.
And that, according to legend, was the moment Zen was born. Nearly a thousand years passed from the legendary encounter of the Buddha and the venerable Mahakasyapa until Zen, transmitted from generation to generation, reached Bodhi-Dharma, who introduced it to China. And still another century passed before a Chinese philosopher and theologian, Hui-neng, who died in 713 A.D., established Zen as a sect of Buddhism.