Chapter 1: The Language of Suddenness
When Hyakujo first arrived at Chiang-si to pay his respects to Ma Tzu, Ma Tzu inquired, “From where have you come?”
“From the Great Cloud Monastery at Yueh Chou,” answered Hyakujo.
“And what do you hope to gain by coming here?” asked Ma Tzu.
Hyakujo replied, “I have come seeking the buddha-dharma.”
To this Ma Tzu replied, “Instead of looking to the treasure house which is your very own, you have left home and gone wandering far away. What for? I have absolutely nothing here at all. What is this buddha-dharma that you seek?”
Whereupon Hyakujo prostrated himself and asked, “Please tell me to what you alluded when you spoke of a treasure house of my very own.”
Ma Tzu replied, “That which asked the question is your treasure house. It contains absolutely everything you need and lacks nothing at all. It is there for you to use freely, so why this vain search for something outside yourself?”
No sooner were these words spoken than Hyakujo received a great illumination and recognized his own no-mind. Beside himself with joy, he bowed in deep gratitude.
Hyakujo spent the next six years in attendance upon Ma Tzu. But as Tao-chih, his first teacher, was growing old, he wanted to return to look after him.
Before Hyakujo left Ma Tzu, he went to pay his final tribute to him.
Seeing him coming, Ma Tzu raised his horse whisk straight up. Hyakujo asked, “Are you in the use of it, or apart from the use?”
Ma Tzu hung the horse whisk on the corner of his chair. After a minute or so, he asked Hyakujo, “Hence forward, how do you open those two leaves of your mouth to work for others?”
At this, Hyakujo took the horse whisk and raised it straight up.
Ma Tzu said, “Are you in the use of it, or apart from it?”
Hyakujo hung the horse whisk on the corner of the chair.
Just at that moment, a great roar, like hundreds of thunderbolts falling, rained on Hyakujo’s head. Ma Tzu had given a shout which, it is said, deafened Hyakujo for three days.
Maneesha, before I speak on the sutras of Hyakujo, I have to say a few words as a preface.
Hyakujo was the direct heir of Ma Tzu and became most well known for his establishment of the first truly Zen monasteries and his treatise on sudden enlightenment.
To understand Hyakujo, the first thing is to understand that enlightenment can only be sudden. The preparation can be gradual, but the illumination is going to be sudden. You can prepare the ground for the seeds, but the sprouts will come suddenly one day in the morning; they don’t come gradually. Existence believes in suddenness. Nothing is gradual here, although everything appears to be gradual; that is our illusion.
In the past science used to think that everything was gradual: a child gradually becomes young; the young man gradually is becoming older.. Now, we know that is not the case because of Albert Einstein and his discoveries about atomic energy. He himself was puzzled when he saw for the first time that the particles of an atom don’t go from one place to another place the way you go from your house to the market. They simply jump. And their jump is so tremendous that Einstein had to find a new word for it: quanta, the quantum jump. It means that the particle was in one place, A, and then suddenly you see it in another place, B. The path between has never been traveled.
A strange jump that you cannot see the particle between the two points. That gave him an idea that in existence everything is jumping, and because the jump is so subtle, you cannot see it.
Every moment you are jumping towards old age. It is not a gradual thing. It is happening every moment that you are growing older, and there is no way that you can find to rest in between the jumps. The jumps are so close, but you can prepare - and particularly for enlightenment, which is the ultimate quantum leap. You can meditate; you can go as deep as you can; you can find your center. And the moment you find your center, suddenly, there will be a jump as if out of nowhere the buddha has appeared - a buddha of pure flames.