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Chapter 4: Twisted Nose

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.

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