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ZEN

MA TZU: THE EMPTY MIRROR

Chapter 1: The mirror

 

Energy Enhancement             Enlightened Texts             Zen             The Empty Mirror

 

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 you to a retarded being. Every enlightened master is evidence that you are living in darkness, that you have to transform your darkness into life, into light.
It seems to be such a great task -- it is not, but it appears to be a great task -- to transform your blindness into clear perceptive eyes; to transform your darkness into beautiful morning light. It is a simple thing, the simplest in the world, but just because it is simple, it does not appeal to the mind. Mind is interested in doing great things. The desire behind every ambition of the mind is to be special. And you can be special only with special achievements.
The problem with Zen is that it wants you to be utterly simple, not special. It goes against the very desire of the mind, which is not a small phenomenon -- it is a four-million-years-old desire, which everybody is carrying in different lives. Mind cannot understand why you should be simple when you could be special, why you should be humble when you could be powerful. And mind is heavy, it has the great weight of the past. The moment the mind sees anyone humble, simple, natural, a buddha, it immediately condemns him, because such a man goes against the whole makeup of the human mind.
And in a way the mind is right. To be a buddha you will have to drop the mind completely, you will have to become an empty mirror.
MA TZU WAS BORN IN CHINA IN THE YEAR 709. HE WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT FIGURE IN THE HISTORY OF ZEN AFTER THE SIXTH PATRIARCH, ENO.
ENO TOLD NANGAKU, WHO WOULD BECOME MA TZU'S MASTER, ABOUT A PROPHECY THAT NANGAKU WOULD HAVE "A SPIRITED YOUNG HORSE" OF A DISCIPLE WHO WOULD "TRAMPLE THE WHOLE WORLD." IN CHINESE, THE `MA' OF MA TZU MEANS `HORSE'.
AS A CHILD, MA TZU JOINED A LOCAL MONASTERY; BEFORE HE WAS TWENTY, HE WAS ALREADY A PROFESSED MONK.
He was a born genius, and even had prophecies about him by other masters -- that he is not to be taken as just XYZ, he has a possibility of becoming a great master -- and the prophecies were fulfilled.
Sometimes it is possible, if a master looks at a child when the child is still uncorrupted by the society, that he can see his potential clearly. And that's what another great master, Eno, said to Nangaku.
Eno was the sixth patriarch, the sixth great master after Bodhidharma. He told Nangaku, "This child is going to become a great master; be careful." And finally Ma Tzu became not only a great master, but the second most important master after Eno. Eno's prophecy was fulfilled more than he had expected. Ma Tzu proved himself to be a greater master than the prophecy had said.
But it is his strange fate that he is not known to the world. Perhaps he was too much ahead of his time; perhaps he was too far away from the ordinary crowd; perhaps his way of teaching was so subtle that the ordinary mind was incapable of comprehending it.
But whatever the cause, we are resurrecting Ma Tzu. We want him to be accepted in the history of consciousness, in the place that belongs to him.

The story Maneesha has brought:
WHEN NANGAKU FIRST SAW MA TZU, HE RECOGNIZED HIM BY INTUITION AS A VESSEL OF THE DHARMA.
A master is nothing but clarity, transparency. To him, things which are invisible to you are visible. Your potentiality is something very invisible, the mystery of your being. But to the master it is almost an open book; he can read it. And to have such a master, who can read your potentiality and can help you grow according to your potentiality -- not according to his ideology -- is the greatest blessing one can have.
WHEN NANGAKU FIRST SAW MA TZU, HE RECOGNIZED HIM BY INTUITION AS A VESSEL OF THE DHARMA.
These are metaphors. "A vessel of the dharma" is to say that he will become a presence which will send a radiation all around. People will come from thousands of miles away, pulled by an invisible force, like gravitation, not knowing why they are being pulled to a certain person. They will understand only when they have reached to that person -- felt his energy, quenched their thirst. Then they will know that some subtle force was pulling them to fulfill their destiny.
Just a few days ago, I came to know that trees have a certain sensibility about water. The scientist who was exploring it was amazed to see that there was a tree with no water around, except that two hundred feet away there was a water pipe. But the tree sent its roots to the water pipe, forced it to break, and was relishing and nourishing itself from that water.
The scientist was worried because he could not find any water around the tree, and he had not thought that it was carrying the water from a water pipe that it had broken with its roots. He was puzzled -- how did the tree know about the water pipe two hundred feet away? And it had not sent its roots anywhere else, just directly to the water pipe.
The tree cannot live without water. Certainly it must have a certain sensibility, a certain hidden knowledge where water is, even though the water is inside a pipe, and two hundred feet away.
The same is the situation with you, if your quest for truth is honest, not just a curiosity. From thousands of miles away, you will start getting pulled to a place where your thirst can be quenched. Existence makes a thirst only after it has created water to quench it. If there are disciples, seekers, searchers, existence manages that they should find a master who can see in them what their possible future is, and can help them to be themselves.
The master has no ideology, the master is not a missionary, the master does not program you. On the contrary he de-programs you; he takes away all your ideologies, your prejudices, your very mind, so that the pure emptiness of your being starts growing.
The masters have been lost, the whole world of that golden quest for truth has become a memory. And at times one thinks, "Perhaps all these buddhas are just our imagination" -- because they have disappeared from our mundane world.
Your purpose in being here is to bring that golden quest back into the world. And I am trying from all different angles -- all these masters are different angles, different approaches to the truth -- hoping that something may click in you and open the door that has been closed for years, for centuries.
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?"
Just take note of it: Nangaku was a well-established master and Ma Tzu was just a young disciple, but he addresses him as "your reverence." For the master, your present is not only the present, it is also your future. He knows you, that one day you will become a buddha. It does not matter that it takes a few days, or a few years, or a few lives. Because Nangaku can see his buddhahood, he addresses even a disciple as "your reverence."
It reminds me about Gautam Buddha's past life, when he was not yet a buddha, and he heard about a great master who had become enlightened. He went to see, just out of curiosity, what this phenomenon of enlightenment is, and how it makes a difference in a man.
He touched the feet of the man, although he had no intention of doing so; but just as he came into his energy field, spontaneously he touched his feet. He wondered why he was touching his feet, because he had not come there to be a disciple. But the very area, the very atmosphere, the very milieu -- and something in his heart started ringing a bell, that perhaps he had come close to his home, without any conscious intention.
Just spontaneously he touched the feet of the man. It was a miracle to him, because he had never touched anybody's feet. He was not a man of faith or belief; he was a young man, and very argumentative. This was a strange act that he had done, but stranger than this was that when he stood up, the master touched his feet.
He said, "What are you doing? In the first place, I had no idea, no desire, no intention of touching your feet -- but it happened. I was just watching it happening in spite of me. And now you are touching my feet! -- I am nobody, I don't know even the ABC of enlightenment. I have just come here out of curiosity."
The master said, "You may not know what is contained in your seed, but I know. I can see that one day you are going to become the buddha. Yesterday I was not a buddha, today I am a buddha; today you are not a buddha, tomorrow you will be a buddha. This small time difference does not make any difference."
Nangaku said to Ma Tzu, who was meditating in his cell, "IN PRACTICING SITTING MEDITATION, WHAT DOES YOUR REVERENCE ASPIRE TO ATTAIN?"
"TO ATTAIN BUDDHAHOOD" WAS MA TZU'S REPLY.
It has to be understood that buddhahood cannot be attained, it is already your nature. If you try to attain it, you will miss it. You have just to relax and see within yourself, and the buddha is already there in its absolute splendor.
The use of the word `attain' means that something has to be done, you have to go somewhere. There is a possibility of failure -- you may succeed, you may not succeed. And attainment is always of the outside world, of the objective world -- riches, or fame, or power....
But buddhahood is not an attainment. It is simply a remembrance, as if you had forgotten something, and suddenly in a silent relaxed state you remember it.
I think every one of you must have come at one time or other to the experience when you know that you know something, and you say that it is just on the tip of your tongue, but still you cannot remember. A very strange and weird feeling arises at that time. You know somebody's name -- you are absolutely sure that you know, you can even close your eyes and see the person -- you feel that the name is just on your tongue, but you are stuck there, it is not becoming expressed.
It is a very weird feeling -- that you know it, and you know that you know, and yet you cannot express it. It is just on the tip of your tongue, but the more you try, the more it becomes difficult.
The reason is that every effort makes your mind tense; and the more the mind is tense, the more it becomes closed. What is needed... you should go into the garden, and start digging or watering the plants, and forget all about this fellow who you remember and who is just sitting on the tip of your tongue. Just simply spit it out. Get engaged in something simple -- watering the roses; and while you are watering the roses, the mind will start relaxing. The closedness will start opening, and suddenly, from nowhere, the name has bubbled up to the surface.
While you were trying it was not possible for you to get it. But when you were not trying, and you simply dropped the idea of getting it, it came back with such a rushing force.
To be a buddha is exactly like that.
All that I teach you is not a philosophy, it cannot even be called a teaching. I simply help you to relax to such a point where you can remember what you have forgotten completely.
That remembrance will make you aware of your buddhahood.
That remembrance is not an achievement because the buddha is already within you; hence the word `attainment' is not right. But Ma Tzu's reply can be understood with a little more compassion. He does not know what exactly buddhahood is, he just has a feeling that there is something to be found, there is something missing in his life, to give it meaning and significance.
The word `buddha' simply signifies that he is searching for awareness. But because he does not know that what he is searching for is within himself, it is absolutely possible for him to use the word `attainment'. He is using the wrong word, but his longing is right. He is on the right path, he is just using a wrong word. And you have to forgive him because he is only a seeker, he is not a master yet.
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?"
This will give you some feel of how Zen masters have been unique in their efforts to awaken their disciples. This is a strange way, but spontaneous, because nobody else has done it before, nor afterwards. Only Nangaku did it.
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?"
"How can you -- remaining yourself, sitting here in the cell -- become the buddha? Neither the brick can become a mirror, nor just by sitting can you become a buddha. You can have the same posture as the buddha, the same lotus posture, but just sitting like him does not mean that you become him. Your effort is as futile as my effort of making a brick into a mirror."
What he is saying in fact is that you cannot become the mirror just by grinding your mind. What are you doing here? Just grinding your mind, and trying to make a mirror of it. The buddha is the mirror; the buddha simply reflects, he does not react. He is always empty like a mirror. Things come and go before the mirror, but they don't leave any trace on the mirror.
"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" -- sometimes he stands up, sometimes he walks, and sometimes he sleeps also -- "IF THE LATTER, ZEN DOES NOT CONSIST IN SITTING OR LYING DOWN. THE DHARMA GOES ON FOREVER AND NEVER ABIDES IN ANYTHING."
It has no particular form, it has no particular place; it goes on moving into different forms. You will not be able to find it in any form, in any body, in any posture. You will have to look within. It is only found in the emptiness, because emptiness cannot sit, cannot stand up, cannot lie down. Emptiness is just emptiness; it is eternally empty. That is the only thing that is eternal -- your empty heart.
"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."
It is the majesty of Zen to say things directly, straightforwardly. No other religion has that courage.
Nangaku is saying to Ma Tzu, "TO SIT YOURSELF INTO BUDDHA" -- taking the buddha posture -- "IS TO KILL THE BUDDHA." Don't murder...
Before dying Gautam Buddha said to his disciples, "Don't make statues of me, because that will give a wrong impression to people. They will think that if you sit in this posture, you will become a buddha."
But who hears? Today there are more statues of Buddha than of anybody else. In fact, in languages like Arabic, Persian, Urdu -- because Mohammedans are against statues -- the word for statue is `budt'; and `budt' is just a form of `buddha'. In Sanskrit `buddh' is the original root of buddha -- to be aware. From `buddh' it is very easy to make `budt'.
This happened because Mohammedans came across more statues of Buddha than of anybody else. And they were destroying statues; wherever they went they were destroying statues. They destroyed beautiful pieces of art. To be against statues does not mean that you have to destroy statues.
You can see in this way how the unconscious mind moves from one extreme to another extreme. Gautam Buddha said, "Don't make statues of me, because people may think that just by sitting in the lotus posture you can become aware. Just leave it like this -- that awareness has no form, you have to find it within you. You cannot find it in a buddha statue. Do not distract them by outside statues -- because man's mind is such that it can be distracted by anything, it becomes attached to anything...."
I have heard about a Buddhist nun who had her own small statue of Gautam Buddha, made of solid gold, and she used to carry it while she was traveling from monastery to monastery. But her problem was that every morning she would worship her buddha, and she would burn incense -- but incense cannot be directed, it may go to some other buddha in the temple. Now this was very bad -- her own buddha was sitting there, and the incense and the perfume that she offered had flown away to some other buddha.
There used to be -- there still are -- temples with many buddhas. And she was so much attached to her own buddha that it became a problem. Her buddha and other buddhas...
She finally found a strategy so that the incense reached to her buddha -- because she was offering her incense, and the other buddhas were getting it. She made a small bamboo, just like a hollow passage, and she kept it on her incense burner, moving the perfume with the hollow bamboo towards the nose of her own buddha.
But then there arose another problem: the nose of her buddha became black. She was in great distress; a gold buddha, a solid gold buddha, with a black nose -- it does not suit. He looks almost like a nigger...!
She inquired of the older monks, "What to do now? If I don't put the bamboo there, the incense... nobody knows where it goes. It goes to all kinds of buddhas; but I am offering it to my buddha. And now because of this bamboo, the nose and a part of the face have become black. What should I do?"
The monk she was asking laughed and said, "You are an idiot woman! You don't understand the simple fact that all the buddhas are the same, they are statues of the same person. You have become attached to your buddha, and the whole teaching of Buddha is non-attachment.
"It is perfectly right; Buddha has shown you that attachment makes you dirty. So beware of it! Just go to a goldsmith so he can clean and polish your buddha. But from now onwards, just think of THE Buddha. Any buddha, whichever buddha gets the incense... perhaps he deserves it! And you should be happy that it has reached to somebody, because all those statues represent the same person."
Buddhists, the followers of Buddha, did not hear his last words, "Don't make statues of me. Let me represent the formless; only the fragrance, not the flower."
And there has been another extreme. Mohammed was against statues, because if you worship a statue... it is a stone, and worshipping a stone is a barrier to the worship of God. So all barriers have to be removed.
It was perfectly okay if somebody was willing to remove it, but Mohammedans started removing other people's barriers. They forgot all about God. Their whole history became a destruction of statues.
Neither by worshipping a statue can you reach to the buddha, nor by destroying statues can you reach to the buddha. You have to go withinwards; outside there is nothing that can give you the eternal, the ultimate, the truth that can quench your thirst.
"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."
The essential principle is never objective; it is your subjectivity. The essential principle has no form; it is absolute emptiness. The essential principle is a mirror; it only reflects, it does not make any judgment of good or bad, of beauty or ugliness.

Chi-Hsien wrote:
I POSSESS POTENTIALITY;
IT IS SEEN IN A BLINK.
HE WHO DOES NOT UNDERSTAND
CANNOT BE CALLED A MONK.

It applies to you exactly the way it was applicable to Chi-Hsien's disciples. I POSSESS POTENTIALITY; IT IS SEEN IN A BLINK. It is not a far away phenomenon. Just close your eyes, and look silently, deep, and it is there. It has been there for eternity, just waiting for you to come home.


 

Next: Chapter 1: The mirror, Question 1

 


Energy Enhancement             Enlightened Texts             Zen             The Empty Mirror

 

 

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ENERGY

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 HOME PAGE

 

GAIN ENERGY APPRENTICE LEVEL1

THE ENERGY BLOCKAGE REMOVAL PROCESS

LEVEL2

THE KARMA CLEARING PROCESS APPRENTICE LEVEL3

MASTERY OF  RELATIONSHIPS TANTRA APPRENTICE LEVEL4

 

STUDENTS EXPERIENCES  2005 AND 2006

 

MORE STUDENTS EXPERIENCES

 - FIFTY FULL TESTIMONIALS

2003 COURSE

 
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