Yakusan began his Buddhist studies in the school of Vinaya so he was well-versed in scriptural studies and ascetics by the time he was introduced to Zen. He began to feel that these things were not yet the ultimate goal of the spiritual life. He longed for true freedom and purity beyond the formulas of the dharma. So, seeking guidance, he called on Sekito.
Yakusan said to the master, “I have only a rough knowledge of the three vehicles, and the twelve branches of the scriptural teaching. But I hear that in the south there is a teaching about ‘pointing directly at the mind of man and attaining buddhahood through the perception of the self-nature.’ Now, this is beyond my comprehension. I humbly beseech you to graciously enlighten me on this.”
Sekito replied, “It is to be found neither in affirmation nor in negation, nor in affirming and negating at the same time. So what can you do?”
Yakusan was altogether mystified by these words.
Hence, Sekito told him frankly, “The cause and occasion of your enlightenment are not present here in this place. You should rather go to visit the great master, Ma Tzu.”
Following the suggestion, Yakusan went to pay his respects to Ma Tzu, presenting before him the same request as he had addressed to Sekito.
Ma Tzu replied, “I sometimes make him raise his eyebrows and turn his eyes; at other times I do not let him raise his eyebrows and turn his eyes. Sometimes it is really he who is raising his eyebrows and turning his eyes; at other times it is really not he who is raising his eyebrows and turning his eyes. How do you understand this?”
At this, Yakusan saw completely eye-to-eye with Ma Tzu and was enlightened. He bowed reverently to the master, who asked him, “What truth do you perceive that you should perform these ceremonies?”
Yakusan said, “When I was with Sekito, I was like a mosquito crawling on a bronze ox.”
Ma Tzu, discerning that the enlightenment was genuine, asked him to take good care of the insight. He attended upon Ma Tzu for three years.
One day, Ma Tzu asked again, “What do you see recently?”
Yakusan replied, “The skin has entirely molted off; there remains only the one, true reality.”
Ma Tzu said, “What you have attained is perfectly in tune with the innermost core of your mind, and from thence it has spread into your four limbs. This being the case, it is time to gird your waist with three bamboo splints, and go forth to make your abode on any mountain you may like.”
Yakusan replied, “Who am I to set up any abode on any mountain?”
Ma Tzu said, “Not so! One cannot always be traveling without abiding, nor always be abiding without traveling. To advance from where you can no longer advance, and to do what can no longer be done, you must make yourself into a raft or ferryboat for others. It is not for you to abide here forever.”
Maneesha, it is absolutely necessary to say a few words before I discuss the sutras you have brought to me.
The authentic master is not concerned with gathering a following, more followers, and becoming a great master because of his following. The authentic master is interested in the disciple and his potentiality. And if he sees that this is not the right place for him to flower, the right climate, then he will send him to another master. That used to be in the past a very common phenomenon. There was no rivalry between masters because they were all working for the same truth, for the same ultimate experience.
But the pseudo masters are different and they have taken over the world. The pseudo master forces the disciple to surrender to him. He makes it almost a commitment and if the disciple leaves him, he will feel guilty for it, it will be called betrayal. And the pseudo master never sends his disciples to another master because he sees that this climate, this atmosphere is not perfectly suitable for his growth.