Now Isan was trying to revolt against Ma Tzu because Ma Tzu had become a tradition. But Isan had not the quality of a Ma Tzu or a Bodhidharma. He was a very intelligent person and he could see that the tradition was becoming rotten; new sources of life should be made available, otherwise it will become a dead tree. Flowers have stopped blossoming on it.
Intellectually he could see the point, but he was himself not the type of master who could manage such a vast phenomenon: rebelling against a tradition is rebelling against four million years of mind, its whole structure. And it is possible to convince people only if you have such a presence, such magnetic force, that when people come to you they are ready to drop the whole past, just for your sake. Isan was not capable of such a great love affair.
That’s why yesterday I told you that his sutras are humble, simple, but they don’t have the splendor and the majesty. Today you will see that he has fallen back on Ma Tzu. He could not find a substitute for Ma Tzu. He wanted to break away from the tradition that Ma Tzu’s life had created, but he was not greater than Ma Tzu. Only a greater man could have managed, and Ma Tzu was impossibly greater. It is almost impossible to find a man who is greater than Ma Tzu; his inventiveness, his creativeness, his absolute strangeness in the world – nobody has been able to surpass him.
Isan had the longing to break away from the tradition. He tried, but he could see that he was failing, it was not working. He was intelligent enough to see that he could not substitute anything in place of Ma Tzu’s methods – shouting, hitting, or throwing people back out of the doors, or closing the door in people’s faces. He could not find what to do. People had become accustomed to expect from the master the unexpectable. He was a good teacher, but goodness is not the point.
Ma Tzu was a very dramatic teacher, very magnetic – lived in a way nobody had ever lived. He walked like a cow his whole life, and looked like a tiger all around, and he had those eyes and the face of a tiger, and also the innocence and the beauty of a cow. A strange combination! And he never bothered about any conformity, any respectability, any mannerism. He acted spontaneously; even he was not aware what was going to happen, but whatever is going to happen spontaneously is right.
No man has lived so spontaneously. Obviously he looked absurd, a little mad, to the outsiders. But he attracted the seekers tremendously; they could see behind the eyes of a tiger the eyes of a buddha; they could see behind his outer behavior the inner beauty, the inner joy, the inner splendor and the possibility to get from him the transmission of the lamp.
Isan was a totally different kind of person. He tried to revolt against the tradition of Ma Tzu, but finally he had to fall back on the same techniques that Ma Tzu had created. They had never existed before.
Isan said to Kyozan, “I have heard that when you were with Hyakujo, if you were asked about one, you could answer about ten. Is that true?”