But the disciple missed. He said to the master, “The master could not strike me!” Ma Tzu went off leaning on his staff, leaving the student behind to meditate over what has happened. Ma Tzu used all kinds of devices spontaneously, but there is always a hidden secret. In the strangest incidents the awakened person will immediately see the hidden secret.
On another occasion, Ho Pang said to Ma Tzu, “Water has no bones, but it easily holds up a ship of a thousand tons; how is this?”
Ma Tzu said, “There’s no water here, and no ship - what am I supposed to explain?”
He is saying, “Don’t bring intellectual, philosophical questions to me. I am here only to bring existential experience to you.”
I am reminded of a small story.
In a court there were two friends who were known in the whole city to be great friends, always together, but finally they were caught fighting and brought to the court by the police. And the magistrate asked, “What is the problem that created the fight?”
They both looked at each other and said, “You say it.”
The other said, “Please, you say it.”
The magistrate said, “Anybody can say it but just say it.”
They said, “We are very embarrassed. We are ready to take any punishment if you allow us not to say it.”
The magistrate said, “This is strange. I cannot punish you unless I know the crime. What was the reason for your fighting and creating chaos in the crowd?”
Finally they had to say it. One of them said, “Please forgive us. It is very philosophical, airy, abstract. We were sitting on the river bank and my friend told me that he was going to purchase a buffalo.
“I said, ‘I have no objection. Just remember that I am going to purchase a big farm. Your buffalo should never enter into my farm. I am a very strict person.’
“The other man said, ‘Your farm? Nobody can stop my buffalo. And I will see how you can stop my buffalo. You are my friend, you should welcome my buffalo; on the contrary you are going to stop it. What kind of friendship is this?’
“I said, ‘Friendship does not come into it. Business is business.’
“The man who was going to purchase a buffalo, he said, ‘Okay, I will see. Purchase the farm.’ And I made a square on the sand with my finger and said, ‘This is my farm. Where is your buffalo?’
“The other man with his finger entered into my field and said, ‘This is my buffalo. Let us see what you can do.’ That’s how the whole thing started.”
The magistrate said, “But where is the farm and where is the buffalo?”
They said, “That is the problem that we were embarrassed to tell you; it is a very philosophical thing. Nothing is there-no buffalo, no farm, just hot air. But we forgot completely that we were fighting about imaginary things.”