This small anecdote is very significant.
Ma Tzu stayed with his master, Nangaku, for more than ten years. On leaving him, he became abbot of the Kai-yuan Temple at Chiang-si.
In his sermons, Ma Tzu followed closely the basic insights of the sixth patriarch, Eno – particularly, that there is no buddha outside of one’s own mind.
This word mind can be understood as the ordinary mind, full of thoughts, emotions, sentiments and attachments. And this same mind can also be thought of as empty. You can empty it of all thoughts, of all emotions. And the moment this mind is empty, there is no difference between mind and no-mind. So there is no need to be confused.
A few masters will use: “The present mind contains everything, even the buddha.” But the condition is that the mind should be empty. Then it, itself, is the buddha.
Buddha’s own statement is significant. He says, “This very body, the buddha; this very mind, the lotus paradise.” But continuously he is saying that you are not the body, you are not the mind. Then what does he mean with this contradiction? He is simply saying that if you are not identified with the body, this very body is as much a buddha as anything in the world. If you are not filled with thoughts, this very mind is as spacious as the whole sky. He is not contradicting himself, he is simply using contradictory ways to indicate the truth.
Eno was the man who had introduced Ma Tzu to Nangaku. Eno was getting old and Ma Tzu was very young, so he did not take the responsibility of guiding Ma Tzu into meditation. He gave the responsibility to Nangaku who was going to be his successor when he died. But the way Eno introduced Ma Tzu to Nangaku was so insightful: “Be very careful with this young man. He is going to be a buddha, and he is going to be your successor, just as you are my successor. Be very reverent, grateful, that you have got a man who is on the verge of becoming a buddha in your hands.”
Ma Tzu remained closer to Eno’s teachings although Eno was not his master, but Eno had seen his potentiality – the possibility, the invisible future. And at the same time he had seen that his death was coming closer, so taking on the responsibility of a disciple at this moment would be wrong, and particularly of a disciple who needs tremendous care because he is on the very verge of exploding. Being very old he thought it would be better that Ma Tzu should be given into the hands of his successor, Nangaku.