But Ma Tzu helped far more people to become enlightened than any other master. The end result shows that his devices worked.
A monk once drew four lines in front of Ma Tzu. The top line was long and the remaining three were short. He then demanded of the master, “Besides saying that one line is long and the other three are short, what else could you say?”
Ma Tzu drew one line on the ground and said, “This could be called either long or short. That is my answer.”
It reminds me of an incident in a court of a great Indian emperor, Akbar. One day he came into the court and drew a line on the wall and told all the members of his court…and he had collected the most wise people from all parts of the country into his court; it must have been the richest court in the world as far as wisdom is concerned. He had all the great artists, musicians, dancers – anybody who was at the top was invited to be part of his court.
He asked the court members, “Can you make this line smaller without touching it?” It looks like a Zen koan. How can you make it smaller without touching it? You will have to touch it, only then you can make it smaller. That seems to be obvious.
But one man laughed. He was the court joker, Birbal. Every court in the ancient days used to have a court joker, just to keep the court playful, nonserious. There were serious problems, but the joker would always keep it cool; he would cut a joke, and all the heat would disappear, and people would come to their senses. Birbal perhaps is one of the most well known men, who had an immense sense of humor; but he was also a wise man. He stood up and he went to the wall and drew a bigger line above the small line that Akbar had drawn. And he said, “I have made it small without touching it” – because small, or long, or short, are all relative terms.
In itself you can draw a line…that’s what Ma Tzu is doing, drawing a line. And he says, “You can call it either long or short.” It is a question of relativity. If you are comparing it with a longer line, it is short; if you are comparing it with a shorter line, it is long. In itself it is just what it is. Relativity is a comparison with something else.
Why Ma Tzu did it has to be understood. And particularly now that Albert Einstein has introduced the theory of relativity in the scientific sphere, it has become more important to understand Ma Tzu’s meaning. He is saying, “Everyone is just himself, neither great nor small – because that greatness or smallness comes from relativity – neither beautiful nor ugly. Everyone is simply just himself.”