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MA TZU: THE EMPTY MIRROR

Chapter 4: Twisted nose

 

Energy Enhancement             Enlightened Texts             Zen             The Empty Mirror

 

OUR BELOVED MASTER,
ONE DAY, AS HYAKUJO WAS VISITING HIS MASTER, MA TZU, A FLOCK OF WILD GEESE FLEW OVERHEAD. MA TZU ASKED, "WHAT ARE THEY?"
"THEY ARE WILD GEESE, SIR," SAID HYAKUJO.
"WHERE ARE THEY?" ASKED THE MASTER.
"THEY HAVE FLOWN AWAY, SIR," REPLIED HYAKUJO.
MA TZU SUDDENLY TOOK HOLD OF HYAKUJO'S NOSE AND TWISTED IT. OVERCOME WITH PAIN, HYAKUJO CRIED OUT. MA TZU SAID, "YOU SAY THEY HAVE FLOWN AWAY, BUT ALL THE SAME THEY HAVE BEEN HERE FROM THE VERY BEGINNING."
AT THAT MOMENT, HYAKUJO ATTAINED ENLIGHTENMENT.
THE NEXT DAY, AT A REGULAR ASSEMBLY, MA TZU HAD HARDLY SAT DOWN WHEN HYAKUJO CAME TO ROLL UP HIS MAT, WHICH MADE THE MASTER DESCEND FROM THE PLATFORM. HYAKUJO FOLLOWED HIM INTO HIS ROOM.
MA TZU SAID, "JUST NOW, BEFORE I HAD BEGUN MY SERMON, WHAT MADE YOU ROLL UP MY MAT?"
HYAKUJO SAID, "YESTERDAY YOUR REVERENCE TWISTED MY NOSE AND I FELT ACUTE PAIN."
"WHERE DID YOU APPLY YOUR MIND YESTERDAY?" MA TZU ASKED.
ALL THAT THE DISCIPLE SAID WAS, "I FEEL NO MORE PAIN IN THE NOSE TODAY."
THEREUPON THE MASTER COMMENTED, "YOU HAVE PROFOUNDLY UNDERSTOOD YESTERDAY'S EPISODE."
ON ANOTHER OCCASION, AS SOON AS MA TZU SAT DOWN ON THE ZAZEN BENCH AS USUAL, HE SPAT.
A MONK ASKED, "WHY DID YOU SPIT?"
MA TZU SAID, "WHEN I SAT HERE, THERE WERE MOUNTAINS, RIVERS, AND THE WHOLE NATURAL UNIVERSE IN FRONT OF ME. I SPAT BECAUSE I DIDN'T LIKE THAT."
THE MONK SAID, "BUT THE UNIVERSE IS SO SPLENDID! WHY DON'T YOU LIKE THAT?"
MA TZU REPLIED, "IT MAY BE SPLENDID TO YOU, BUT IT IS DISGUSTING TO ME."
THE MONK CONTINUED, "WHAT KIND OF MENTAL STATE IS THIS?"
MA TZU SAID, "THIS IS THE STATE OF A BODHISATTVA."

Maneesha, these are some of the great episodes in the history of Zen. They show your realization in your action. When a master acts in a certain way, the disciple spontaneously has to respond, not through thinking, but through his very empty heart.
Zen is ultimately a device, thousands of devices, created by different masters to provoke awakening in you. Reading them one may think they are just anecdotes, stories, puzzles. They are not, they are communications, and communications of the greatest value.
ONE DAY, AS HYAKUJO WAS VISITING HIS MASTER, MA TZU, A FLOCK OF WILD GEESE FLEW OVERHEAD. MA TZU ASKED, "WHAT ARE THEY?"
"THEY ARE WILD GEESE, SIR," SAID HYAKUJO.
"WHERE ARE THEY?" ASKED THE MASTER.
"THEY HAVE FLOWN AWAY, SIR," REPLIED HYAKUJO.
MA TZU SUDDENLY TOOK HOLD OF HYAKUJO'S NOSE AND TWISTED IT. OVERCOME WITH PAIN, HYAKUJO CRIED OUT. MA TZU SAID, "YOU SAY THEY HAVE FLOWN AWAY, BUT ALL THE SAME THEY HAVE BEEN HERE FROM THE VERY BEGINNING."
AT THAT MOMENT, HYAKUJO ATTAINED ENLIGHTENMENT.
To any ordinary rational thinker this will look like an absurd statement. But to a man attuned in meditation, this can become a tremendous awakening point. It is not that Ma Tzu does not know that the geese have flown away. It is not that he does not know that the geese were there. He is not asking for any knowledgeable answer. He is asking for the response which Hyakujo missed in the beginning, when Ma Tzu asked him, "WHAT ARE THEY?" Obviously Ma Tzu knows what they are.
So remember, it is not a question or inquiry about knowing the object. At this point Hyakujo missed. His response was through the mind; he said, "THEY ARE WILD GEESE, SIR."
That would be the response of anybody else in the whole world. It is not out of the empty heart. It is not out of the mirror of nothingness. It is just... any child would say it. The answer is right, but Hyakujo's response was not through the heart, it was through the mind.
"THEY ARE WILD GEESE, SIR," SAID HYAKUJO.
Here he missed. He should have responded to the question without thinking of any consequences.
"WHERE ARE THEY?" -- the master gave him another chance -- ASKED THE MASTER.
"THEY HAVE FLOWN AWAY, SIR," REPLIED HYAKUJO.
He is just functioning on the mental level.
MA TZU SUDDENLY TOOK HOLD OF HYAKUJO'S NOSE AND TWISTED IT. OVERCOME WITH PAIN, HYAKUJO CRIED OUT. MA TZU SAID, "YOU SAY THEY HAVE FLOWN AWAY, BUT ALL THE SAME THEY HAVE BEEN HERE FROM THE VERY BEGINNING."
Where can they go? They have always been here and will be here. The here is vast enough -- wherever they are, they are in the here. They cannot go out of the here. That's what he was expecting from Hyakujo. But he had to take Hyakujo by his nose and twist the nose to make him aware that he was functioning through the mind. And the mind can only bring pain; the mind is pain.
Ma Tzu's twisting the nose of Hyakujo and giving him tremendous pain so that he cried out -- don't take it superficially, don't take it as it appears on the surface. This crying out was not out of the mind. This crying out came as the spontaneous response of his whole being. At this moment the master could speak to him. He was in the right space now; he was no more in the mind, his whole being was awake because of the pain.
Pain has a tremendous value in awakening. Pain has been used by many masters to awaken the sleeping disciple. All your old religions, on the contrary, console the disciple and help him to sleep well -- God is in heaven and everything is okay on the earth, you don't be worried! But Zen is not at all interested in consoling you. It is interested in awakening you.
When Hyakujo cried out, Ma Tzu did not say a single word of sympathy. He did not give any explanation, why he had twisted his nose. On the contrary he said, "YOU SAY THEY HAVE FLOWN AWAY, BUT ALL THE SAME THEY HAVE BEEN HERE FROM THE VERY BEGINNING."
In that moment there was no thought except pain. The mind was empty, the nose was hurting -- and Ma Tzu did not care about the nose or the pain; he simply stated a tremendously meaningful statement, that nobody, nothing, can go away out of here. Here is immense and vast, so is now. Wherever they are, they are here.
Hyakujo was now in a right state to understand the meaning of the master -- that everything is always here. Those wild geese were just an excuse to explain to Hyakujo that nothing moves, nothing goes anywhere.
AT THAT MOMENT HYAKUJO ATTAINED ENLIGHTENMENT.
Seeing the point, the eternity and the wideness of now and here, he immediately fell into the emptiness of his heart and realized the truth. In an instant something was triggered in him by what Ma Tzu was saying, which Zen calls enlightenment. He became aware of his own hereness, of his own nowness. The wild geese were just an excuse.
But such anecdotes have never happened anywhere else. They have no parallel, hence the difficulty of understanding them. They are anecdotes on the path of meditation. Only people of the path who have gone deep into meditation will be able to understand something which looks absolutely absurd as far as reason is concerned.
The nose has nothing to do with attainment, otherwise it would be very easy. The disciple simply comes, gets a twisted nose, becomes enlightened and goes home. And Ma Tzu would not twist the nose of any disciple, any XYZ.
Hyakujo is ready. It is just a push. He is just on the boundary line, where anything can push him just that one single step inwards. It is such a great statement, that there is no time and there is no space -- here is the only space and now is the only time.
And it is not applicable only to the wild geese, it is applicable to you, to everything -- the great statement and the silent watchfulness. Awakened by the twisted nose, Hyakujo attained enlightenment.

THE NEXT DAY, AT A REGULAR ASSEMBLY, MA TZU HAD HARDLY SAT DOWN WHEN HYAKUJO CAME TO ROLL UP HIS MAT, WHICH MADE THE MASTER DESCEND FROM THE PLATFORM. HYAKUJO FOLLOWED HIM INTO HIS ROOM.
MA TZU SAID, "JUST NOW, BEFORE I HAD BEGUN MY SERMON, WHAT MADE YOU ROLL UP MY MAT?"
HYAKUJO SAID, "YESTERDAY YOUR REVERENCE TWISTED MY NOSE AND I FELT ACUTE PAIN."
"WHERE DID YOU APPLY YOUR MIND YESTERDAY?" MA TZU ASKED.
ALL THAT THE DISCIPLE SAID WAS, "I FEEL NO MORE PAIN IN THE NOSE TODAY."
THEREUPON THE MASTER COMMENTED, "YOU HAVE PROFOUNDLY UNDERSTOOD YESTERDAY'S EPISODE."
This is a little more subtle than the first episode. Usually the Zen master gives the sermon and the chief disciple, when the sermon is over, rolls up the mat on which he was sitting and takes the mat to his room. But in this case HYAKUJO CAME TO ROLL UP HIS MAT, WHICH MADE THE MASTER DESCEND FROM THE PLATFORM. HYAKUJO FOLLOWED HIM INTO HIS ROOM.
He has not even uttered a single word. Hyakujo has become an enlightened master himself. Yesterday's experience... Now he is responding the way a master responds; he is saying, by rolling up the mat, "Now I don't need any sermon. All I needed, I got yesterday."
MA TZU SAID, "JUST NOW, BEFORE I HAD BEGUN MY SERMON, WHAT MADE YOU ROLL UP MY MAT?"
HYAKUJO SAID, "YESTERDAY YOUR REVERENCE TWISTED MY NOSE AND I FELT ACUTE PAIN."
"WHERE DID YOU APPLY YOUR MIND YESTERDAY?"
"Could you not have done something yesterday?" Ma Tzu is asking.
ALL THAT THE DISCIPLE SAID WAS, "I FEEL NO MORE PAIN IN THE NOSE TODAY."
He is saying, "I don't need any consolation. I feel no pain in the nose today and I don't need any sermon anymore. You said everything yesterday."
THEREUPON THE MASTER COMMENTED, "YOU HAVE PROFOUNDLY UNDERSTOOD YESTERDAY'S EPISODE."
ON ANOTHER OCCASION, AS SOON AS MA TZU SAT DOWN ON THE ZAZEN BENCH AS USUAL, HE SPAT.
A MONK ASKED, "WHY DID YOU SPIT?"
MA TZU SAID, "WHEN I SAT HERE, THERE WERE MOUNTAINS, RIVERS, AND THE WHOLE NATURAL UNIVERSE IN FRONT OF ME. I SPAT BECAUSE I DIDN'T LIKE THAT."
THE MONK SAID, "BUT THE UNIVERSE IS SO SPLENDID! WHY DON'T YOU LIKE THAT?"
MA TZU REPLIED, "IT MAY BE SPLENDID TO YOU, BUT IT IS DISGUSTING TO ME."
THE MONK CONTINUED, "WHAT KIND OF MENTAL STATE IS THIS?"
MA TZU SAID, "THIS IS THE STATE OF A BODHISATTVA."
This, the third part of the anecdote, is even more difficult to understand. Ma Tzu, spitting on the Zazen bench, is not really saying that he doesn't like the mountains and the rivers and the stars. What he is doing is seeing whether the disciple remains silent and non-judgmental, or makes a judgment.
Zen's whole attitude is non-judgmental. Don't judge... and at least the disciple should not judge the action of his master, he should simply witness, he should simply see that Ma Tzu has spat. Ma Tzu is provoking him; he is provoking his judgmental mind. And the monk has forgotten that the whole teaching is to never judge. Just watch, and particularly watch the actions of the master. Do you think that Ma Tzu does not understand that spitting on the bench is simply disgusting? But he wants you to remain unwavering, non-judgmental, just watching, as a mirror.
If a mirror was watching, do you think the mirror would say "What are you doing? This is not good." The disciple missed; this could have been a great opportunity to become enlightened. Remember it, devices don't succeed all the time. Sometimes they fail.
The master makes his wholehearted effort but the disciple may not be in the right space to understand it. Now it is very clear to a man of a little meditation that Ma Tzu knows that spitting on the Zazen bench is disgusting, so there is no need to ask any question. Perhaps he is provoking you, he is provoking your judgmental mind. And the moment the judgmental mind comes in, your watching mind disappears. Remember these two words -- judgmental and watching. You can watch only if you don't judge.
But the disciple could not resist asking. He asked, "WHY DID YOU SPIT?" He forgot completely that here he has to learn watching, not making judgments, particularly of any action of the master.
MA TZU SAID, "WHEN I SAT HERE, THERE WERE MOUNTAINS, RIVERS, AND THE WHOLE NATURAL UNIVERSE IN FRONT OF ME. I SPAT BECAUSE I DIDN'T LIKE THAT."
Still the disciple could not understand that there were no mountains, no rivers, no universe there in front of the Zazen bench; the master's explanation is just to test him.
He said, "I SPAT BECAUSE I DIDN'T LIKE THAT."
A meditative disciple would have slapped Ma Tzu, he would not have asked anything, and that would have been greatly appreciated by Ma Tzu. That would have been the disciple's enlightenment. It is not a question of asking, it is a question of responding. The master obviously is doing something wrong, just to provoke. If the disciple had slapped the master without saying anything, the master would have laughed and blessed the disciple, saying, "You have understood it." But because the disciple missed the point, he again said, "I SPAT BECAUSE I DIDN'T LIKE THAT."
He wants the disciple to say to him, "What happened to your non-judgmental mind?" But the disciple had forgotten completely about the non-judgmental mind, which is the very foundation of Zen.
THE MONK SAID, "BUT THE UNIVERSE IS SO SPLENDID!"
He started arguing. With the master you don't argue, you respond. You don't start a verbal conversation -- that will be missing the master and his great compassion.
THE MONK SAID, "BUT THE UNIVERSE IS SO SPLENDID! WHY DON'T YOU LIKE THAT?"
He has come down to the level of the mind and is on the point of discussing the matter. But Zen does not allow discussion. It is not a debate. It is pure awakening from the mind, pure freedom from judgment.
MA TZU REPLIED, "IT MAY BE SPLENDID TO YOU, BUT IT IS DISGUSTING TO ME."
He is again and again trying to remind the disciple that he should slap him for being judgmental, that he has completely forgotten the foundation.
THE MONK CONTINUED, "WHAT KIND OF MENTAL STATE IS THIS?"
He is continuing on the mental state.
MA TZU SAID, "THIS IS THE STATE OF A BODHISATTVA."
This is the state of a buddha. Now there is nothing else to be said. Ma Tzu has closed the conversation, seeing that the device has failed.
So remember that a device will not always succeed, because there are two persons involved -- the master who is enlightened, and the disciple who is not enlightened. And he will most probably behave in an unenlightened way, not knowing that this is the time to act spontaneously, not through the mind, but through the empty heart.
Daio wrote in praise of Kannon:
THE CLIFFS ARE HIGH AND DEEP,
THE WATERS RUSH AND TUMBLE.
THE REALM OF PERFECT COMMUNION
IS NEW IN EACH PLACE.
FACE TO FACE, THE PEOPLE WHO
MEET HER DON'T RECOGNIZE HER.
WHEN WILL THEY EVER BE FREE FROM
THE HARBOR OF ILLUSION?

Each moment in existence is a moment ready for communion. There is no special moment in which you can become enlightened. Every moment is special. Every moment is potential for your enlightenment -- a beautiful sunset, a beautiful sunrise, a great sky full of stars, or just this silence. Anything will do, if you remember yourself to be a watcher -- not getting involved, not getting identified, but just remaining a mirror, an empty mirror.
Before the empty mirror no illusion can remain for long. All illusions will disappear; they remain only because you get involved with them.
Daio is asking with great compassion, WHEN WILL THEY EVER BE FREE FROM THE HARBOR OF ILLUSION?
Every moment the time comes for enlightenment. Every moment is the right season, the right climate; you just go on missing. Missing becomes your habit, and that habit has to be broken. You have to become stabilized, concentrated in the moment, at the center of your being; just watching without saying a single word of evaluation, good, bad or beautiful.
Nothing has to be said, just watching is enough and all illusions disappear, all that is false disappears.

 

 

Next: Chapter 4: Twisted nose, Question 1

 


Energy Enhancement             Enlightened Texts             Zen             The Empty Mirror

 

 

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