“Could you not have done something yesterday?” Ma Tzu is asking.
All that the disciple said was, “I feel no more pain in the nose today.”
He is saying, “I don’t need any consolation. I feel no pain in the nose today and I don’t need any sermon anymore. You said everything yesterday.”
Thereupon the master commented, “You have profoundly understood yesterday’s episode.”
On another occasion, as soon as Ma Tzu sat down on the Zazen bench as usual, he spat.
A monk asked, “Why did you spit?”
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.”
The monk said, “But the universe is so splendid! Why don’t you like that?”
Ma Tzu replied, “It may be splendid to you, but it is disgusting to me.”
The monk continued, “What kind of mental state is this?”
Ma Tzu said, “This is the state of a bodhisattva.”
This, the third part of the anecdote, is even more difficult to understand. Ma Tzu, spitting on the Zazen bench, is not really saying that he doesn’t like the mountains and the rivers and the stars. What he is doing is seeing whether the disciple remains silent and non-judgmental, or makes a judgment.
Zen’s whole attitude is non-judgmental. Don’t judge…and at least the disciple should not judge the action of his master, he should simply witness, he should simply see that Ma Tzu has spat. Ma Tzu is provoking him; he is provoking his judgmental mind. And the monk has forgotten that the whole teaching is to never judge. Just watch, and particularly watch the actions of the master. Do you think that Ma Tzu does not understand that spitting on the bench is simply disgusting? But he wants you to remain unwavering, non-judgmental, just watching, as a mirror.
If a mirror was watching, do you think the mirror would say “What are you doing? This is not good.” The disciple missed; this could have been a great opportunity to become enlightened. Remember it, devices don’t succeed all the time. Sometimes they fail.
The master makes his wholehearted effort but the disciple may not be in the right space to understand it. Now it is very clear to a man of a little meditation that Ma Tzu knows that spitting on the Zazen bench is disgusting, so there is no need to ask any question. Perhaps he is provoking you, he is provoking your judgmental mind. And the moment the judgmental mind comes in, your watching mind disappears. Remember these two words – judgmental and watching. You can watch only if you don’t judge.