The reason is that every effort makes your mind tense; and the more the mind is tense, the more it becomes closed. What is needed…you should go into the garden, and start digging or watering the plants, and forget all about this fellow who you remember and who is just sitting on the tip of your tongue. Just simply spit it out. Get engaged in something simple – watering the roses; and while you are watering the roses, the mind will start relaxing. The closedness will start opening, and suddenly, from nowhere, the name has bubbled up to the surface.
While you were trying it was not possible for you to get it. But when you were not trying, and you simply dropped the idea of getting it, it came back with such a rushing force.
To be a buddha is exactly like that.
All that I teach you is not a philosophy, it cannot even be called a teaching. I simply help you to relax to such a point where you can remember what you have forgotten completely.
That remembrance will make you aware of your buddhahood.
That remembrance is not an achievement because the buddha is already within you; hence the word attainment is not right. But Ma Tzu’s reply can be understood with a little more compassion. He does not know what exactly buddhahood is, he just has a feeling that there is something to be found, there is something missing in his life, to give it meaning and significance.
The word buddha simply signifies that he is searching for awareness. But because he does not know that what he is searching for is within himself, it is absolutely possible for him to use the word attainment. He is using the wrong word, but his longing is right. He is on the right path, he is just using a wrong word. And you have to forgive him because he is only a seeker, he is not a master yet.
Nangaku then took up a piece of brick and began to grind it against a rock in front of Ma Tzu’s cell. Ma Tzu asked, “What are you grinding it for?”
This will give you some feel of how Zen masters have been unique in their efforts to awaken their disciples. This is a strange way, but spontaneous, because nobody else has done it before, nor afterwards. Only Nangaku did it.
Ma Tzu asked, “What are you grinding it for?”
“I want to grind it into a mirror,” responded Nangaku.
Amused, Ma Tzu said, “How can you hope to grind a piece of brick into a mirror?”
Nangaku retorted, “Since a piece of brick cannot be ground into a mirror, how then can you sit yourself into a buddha?”
“How can you – remaining yourself, sitting here in the cell – become the buddha? Neither the brick can become a mirror, nor just by sitting can you become a buddha. You can have the same posture as the buddha, the same lotus posture, but just sitting like him does not mean that you become him. Your effort is as futile as my effort of making a brick into a mirror.”