The apocryphal tale of the Flower Plucked and the Faint Smile:
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I have signless dharmatā as the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.
Let’s put aside the “entrusted to Mahākāśyapa” bit, an ahistorical line designed to add extra legitimacy to one later sect over another. Similarly, if others will humour me, we might forget for a moment in general that this is a Zen text at all, and we might forget any doctrines or perspectives it might be designed to argue from or suggest, and we might treat it as a strange little isolated story, even if it might perhaps merely be a rather strange and ambiguous set of statements about something that the Buddha is said to think Mahākāśyapa really “gets” in the moment.
I want to focus on the phrase “which is external to scriptures”. When the Buddha passes his teaching to us, by proxy today, certainly, we receive it through words, but is Buddhadharma and realization thereof ultimately external to scriptures, or are scriptures and/or “transmissions” (between two points) in general bound up in it intrinsically? By “scriptures” here, I think we can also mean that to refer to the contents of scriptures, rather than simply the precise wordings and languages preserved by them.
A stance I would like to put up for support or critique: “Without Buddhavacana, we don’t get Buddhadharma.”