But traditionally they never understood that it is against the freedom of the individual to be a successor. It makes a spiritual experience almost like a treasury or a kingdom. It is neither. Nobody can succeed. Everybody has to be on his own, and that independence and the taste of that independence is so valuable that I want to bring a new kind of master and a new kind of disciple into the world. They are intimate in their love, in their trust, but they are not bound in any way – by any thread, visible or invisible. The master is himself, the disciple is also himself. And the function of the master is to prove to the disciple that to be oneself is the greatest glory in the world, the most splendorous thing.
But Ma Tzu is old…part of the old world. He had these three disciples as intimate disciples – Nan-chu’an, Chih-tsang, and Hui-hai (otherwise known as Hyakujo). Nan-chu’an is better known as Nansen. He had a special place in the master’s heart, but in the line of transmission, Hyakujo became the successor of Ma Tzu.
One evening, as the three disciples were attending on their master, enjoying the moon together, he asked them what they thought would be the best way of spending such a night.
Chih-tsang was the first to answer. He said, “A good time to make offerings” – a good time to feel grateful to existence.
Hui-hai said, “A good time to cultivate one’s spiritual life.”
Nan-chu’an made no answer, but shook his sleeves and went away.
Ma Tzu turned to Chih-tsang and said, “The sutras will join the tsang.”
(He was making a pun on Chih-tsang’s name, tsang, which in Chinese means ‘basket’, as in carrying the word of Buddha.)
Buddha’s sutras are divided into three baskets. Ma Tzu said to Chih-tsang, just making a pun on his name, “You will be one of the enlightened ones who will carry the Buddha’s sutras. You will be a basket to carry the Buddha’s sutras. You will be a great scholar.” And that’s how it came to be.
A master’s insight, his clarity, is always, twenty-four hours a day, the same. He could see through this man although he is just making a pun on his name. But he uses even that opportunity to indicate to him that he will be a great scholar.
He turned to Hui-hai and said: “Dhyana will return to the sea.”
(Ma tTu was making a second pun, since, in Chinese, hai means ‘sea’.)
Hui-hai had said that it was a good time for cultivating spirituality. And the way to cultivate spirituality is dhyana, meditation. His Chinese name ‘hai’ means ‘sea’. And every meditation is bringing your small river of life to the great ocean of existence, to the sea.