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Chapter 6: The Hunter

It is said about him:

With Ma Tzu, Zen took on a truly Chinese flavor - open-hearted and not highly controlled. Under Ma Tzu, mysterious meditation and renunciation for the practice of Zazen in the mountains dropped.

The speciality of Zen after Ma Tzu was nothing but the fragrance of intense living.

He reduced everything to intense inquiry, intense living. Intensity became the focus of his whole teaching.

One hundred and thirty persons became enlightened under Ma Tzu. Just as an example of his working.

Ma 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?”

Now, it is out of the blue.Shih-kung is asking about the deer, and Ma Tzu changes the whole situation into a totally new dimension. Such was his resourcefulness.

Ma Tzu asked, “Who are you?”

This was not an answer, certainly, to the question asked.

“A hunter,” he replied.
“Do you know how to shoot?”

He has changed the whole subject matter.

“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 Tzu.
“One arrow can only shoot down one deer,” said Shih-kung.
“In that case, you really don’t know how to shoot.”

Do you see the shifting of the situation? Slowly he is bringing him to a totally different thing. Shih-kung has simply asked, “Have you seen any deer pass?” He has not come for renunciation, he has not come for initiation, he is not there for any inquiry into truth. But it does not matter - once you have come in front of Ma Tzu, you will not be able to leave that place unchanged. Just the very touch of Ma Tzu’s air is enough to make a difference.

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