Monday, January 04, 2016



Mind is the Way

      "However eloquently I may talk about all kinds of things as innumerable as the sands of the Ganges, the mind shows no increase. You may talk ever so much about it, and it is still your mind; you may not at all talk about it, and it is just the same your own mind. Let each of you see into his own mind.”

Those are the words of Mazu Daoyi.

          Mazu Daoyi was a Chinese Zen master who lived from 709 to 788. He is celebrated for initiating Rinzai Zen and championing instant awakening. According to Mazu, seeing into one’s nature meant understanding who you are and what you are, and that realization comes not gradually but suddenly. He declared there was no one way of teaching this truth, and whatever method seemed appropriate at a given moment was the best method.

        According to Mazu, anything was fair in love, in war, and in Zen study. He expressed his Chan not in lofty philosophical terms and foggy wisdom, but in simple, everyday language. He believed there was nothing that could be done to speed up the occurrence of sudden enlightenment, other than use traditional practices to make the psyche as uncomplicated as possible and then wait for the moment to strike.  Interestingly, he did not encourage meditation. Instead, he declared the grasping of truth was the function of everyday mindedness.

          Everyday mindedness is free from intentional action, free from concepts of right-and wrong, free from taking and giving, and free from the finite or the infinite.

          All daily activities—walking, standing, sitting, lying down—response to circumstances as they arise. This is what Mazu referred to as Tao.

          Mazu apparently was the first master who developed tricks for nudging a disciple into the state of "no-thought."  He was an experimenter, and he pioneered a number of methods that were later used by his followers.

        He might ask a novice an unanswerable question and then, while the person struggled for an answer, to shout in his ear hoping to jolt the pupil into a non-dualistic mind state. Another technique was to call out the novice’s name just as that person was leaving the room, a bombshell that seemed to bring the person up short and cause him to suddenly experience his original nature. A similar device was to deliver a student a sharp blow as he pondered a point, using violence to abort reasoning and focus attention completely on reality.

        The scanty records say Mazu's Chan community was an incubator for the greatest thinkers of the eighth century and the setting for some of the finest Chan anecdotes.

        He believed in stories as the perfect Chan teaching device, since they focus the listener to find its meaning in his own inner experience. A sermon may have provided the theoretical basis for an idea, but an anecdote showed the theory in action and made the listener share in a real experience if only vicariously.

        The following two anecdotes are included in the collection of koans called the Wumen Kuan (Japanese, Mumonkan).


          Case 30

          Question: "What is Buddha?" (That is, what is the unworldliness that all seek?)

          Mazu: "Mind is Buddha."

          Case 33

          Question: "What is Buddha?"

          Mazu: "No mind, no Buddha" (That is, unworldliness is in the mind, and for its realization one must realize the mind.)


          Trying to reconcile those seemingly contradictory responses will likely tip your own mind upside down, which is the whole point of shaking it loose.

          Mazu discovered and refined something that seems to have escaped earlier teachers such as Huineng and Huairang, namely, a trigger mechanism for sudden          enlightenment. He originated the use of shouting and blows to precipitate          enlightenment, techniques used in later decades by such masters as Huangbo and Linji, masters who shaped the Rinzai sect.


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