died: c. 810
Mazu (J. Baso)
Chan disciples: none recorded
| oshobob The Living Workshop
Tzu was noted for his resourcefulness in
finding expedient means of working with his
disciples. This is illustrated by his conversion of
Shih kung, who was originally a hunter, loathing
the very sight of Buddhist monks. One day, as he
was chasing after a deer, he passed by Ma Tzu's
monastery. Ma Tzu came forward to meet him.
Shih kung asked him whether he had seen any
deer pass by.
Ma Tzu asked, "Who are you?"
"A hunter," he replied.
"Do you know how to shoot?" queried Ma Tzu.
"Of course I do," replied the hunter.
"How many can you hit with one arrow?" asked Ma
"One arrow can only shoot down one deer," said
"In that case, you really don't know how to shoot,"
Ma Tzu commented.
The hunter then asked Ma Tzu, "Does your
reverence know how to shoot?"
Ma Tzu replied, "Of course I do."
"How many can you kill with one arrow?" the hunter
"I can kill a whole flock with a single arrow,"
answered the master.
At this, Shih kung said, "The beasts have life as
you do: why should you shoot down a whole flock?"
Ma Tzu said, "Since you know this so well, why
don't you shoot yourself?"
Shih kung answered, "Even if I wanted to shoot
myself, I would not know how to manage it."
At this point, Ma Tzu remarked, "This fellow has
accumulated klesa from ignorance for numberless
aeons. Today the whole process has come to a
Tossing his arrows and bows to the ground, Shih
kung became a monk and a disciple of Ma Tzu.
Some time later, when Shih kung was working in
the kitchen, Ma Tzu asked him what he was doing.
"I am tending an ox," the disciple answered.
"How do you tend it?" asked Ma Tzu.
Shih kung replied, "As soon as it returns to the
grass, I ruthlessly pull it back by its nostrils."
This won great approval from the master, who
remarked, "You certainly know the true way of
tending an ox!"
There are two kinds of masters, not in any way
different in their experiences, but different in
conveying their experience to others.
One is simply using old methods, well tried, which
have given sure results. The other is a creative
person, who does not follow any traditional method
or device to transform a person, but responds to
each person according to his need.
Ma Tzu belongs to the second category, of very
creative and inventive masters. He never repeats
himself. In every situation he will bring a new
device; he will function just as a mirror. And
whatever comes spontaneously out of his empty
heart, he will use it as a vehicle of dhamma.
This type of master is very rare, because you don't
know whether a method is going to succeed; you
don't know what will be the outcome. You are
simply trusting in your own heart, that your heart
cannot let you down. This is an immense trust in
one's own enlightenment and awakening – that
whatever comes out of your illumination is going to
succeed, there is no question about it. Hence a
man like Ma Tzu has a tremendous freedom...
Ma Tzu: The Empty Mirror, ch. 6