OUR BELOVED MASTER,
WHEN NANGAKU FIRST SAW MA TZU, HE RECOGNIZED HIM BY INTUITION AS A VESSEL OF THE DHARMA.
HE VISITED MA TZU IN HIS CELL WHERE HE WAS MEDITATING, AND ASKED HIM: "IN PRACTICING SITTING MEDITATION, WHAT DOES YOUR REVERENCE ASPIRE TO ATTAIN?"
"TO ATTAIN BUDDHAHOOD" WAS MA TZU'S REPLY.
NANGAKU THEN TOOK UP A PIECE OF BRICK AND BEGAN TO GRIND IT AGAINST A ROCK IN FRONT OF MA TZU'S CELL. MA TZU ASKED, "WHAT ARE YOU GRINDING IT FOR?"
"I WANT TO GRIND IT INTO A MIRROR," RESPONDED NANGAKU.
AMUSED, MA TZU SAID, "HOW CAN YOU HOPE TO GRIND A PIECE OF BRICK INTO A MIRROR?"
NANGAKU RETORTED, "SINCE A PIECE OF BRICK CANNOT BE GROUND INTO A MIRROR, HOW THEN CAN YOU SIT YOURSELF INTO A BUDDHA?"
"WHAT MUST I DO THEN?" MA TZU ASKED.
NANGAKU REPLIED, "TAKE THE CASE OF AN OX-CART: IF THE CART DOES NOT MOVE, DO YOU WHIP THE CART OR DO YOU WHIP THE OX?"
MA TZU REMAINED SILENT.
"IN LEARNING SITTING MEDITATION," RESUMED NANGAKU, "DO YOU ASPIRE TO IMITATE THE SITTING BUDDHA OR DO YOU ASPIRE TO LEARN THE SITTING ZEN? IF THE FORMER, THE BUDDHA HAS NO FIXED POSTURES. IF THE LATTER, ZEN DOES NOT CONSIST IN SITTING OR LYING DOWN.
"THE DHARMA GOES ON FOREVER AND NEVER ABIDES IN ANYTHING. YOU MUST NOT, THEREFORE, BE ATTACHED TO, NOR ABANDON, ANY PARTICULAR PHASE OF IT. TO SIT YOURSELF INTO BUDDHA IS TO KILL THE BUDDHA. TO BE ATTACHED TO THE SITTING POSTURE IS TO FAIL TO COMPREHEND THE ESSENTIAL PRINCIPLE."
Maneesha, we are starting a new series of talks: MA TZU -- THE EMPTY MIRROR. Ma Tzu is also known as Baso. I am not using the name Baso, because our second series is going to be on the Japanese Basho -- the great mystic poet of Zen. And the name Ma Tzu is itself more meaningful than his popular name, Baso.
Before I discuss the sutras, a biographical note on Ma Tzu is absolutely needed, because he is not known to the world. He is one of those unfortunate geniuses whom the world tries in every way to ignore, to forget that they even exist. Even the idea that they exist hurts the ego of the crowd. It has been doing harm to every genius, because the very existence of a genius reduces