Ma-tsu Tao-i


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A Chinese Ch'an monk of the third generation after the Sixth Patriarch Hui-neng (638–713) known for his iconoclastic language and energetic teaching. His teaching style was rough, and he is counted as one of the early pioneers of the ‘shock Ch'an’ or ‘crazy Ch'an’ method of imparting enlightenment (satori) directly to his disciples. His methods included shouting directly into a student's ear, beating him, or giving nonsensical replies to questions in order to force the student to rely on his own resources. Tales of Ma-tsu, both as a student under Nan-yueh Huai-jang (677–744) and as a teacher in his own right, have been preserved in the great kōan collections of the Ch'an and zen traditions. Perhaps the best known is the following: ‘Ma-tsu was residing in the Chuan-fa Temple and sat constantly in meditation. The master (Huai-jang), aware that he was a vessel of the Dharma.went to him and asked, Virtuous One, why are you sitting in meditation? Tao-I answered, I wish to become a Buddha. Then the master picked up a tile and began to rub it with a stone in front of the hermitage. Tao-i asked, What is the master doing? The master replied, I am polishing a mirror. Tao-i exclaimed, How can one make a mirror by polishing a tile? The master retorted, How can you become a Buddha by sitting in meditation?’

Subjects: Buddhism.

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