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Buddhadharma : Spring 2008
spring 2008| 24 |buddhadharma the promise of steady food. But anyone who was looking for escape at Ma’s monastery was in for a shock. When he was once asked about the essence of his school, he replied, “Oh, it’s just the place where you let go of your body and your life.” That was quite a statement during a time when everyone knew people who had lost both. From Ma’s perspective, the situation was so urgent, and the need was so great, that there wasn’t time for people to despair or lack confidence or run away. It’s as if he were saying, “We need you to get clear right now about your own nature and the nature of life, so that you can roll up your sleeves and start doing something about it.” Shitou and his descendants tended to empha- size reconciliation and the restoration of peace and stability in times of chaos. Ma’s line valued Chan’s independence from the mainstream, which allowed it to offer both a critique of the status quo and an alternative to it. Neither thought he had the one true way or tried to impose his view on the other. Ma and Shitou had different temperaments and ways of teaching, but they shared something fundamental: both were deeply affected by the sorrows of their age, and as a result both were determined to reimagine what Chan was for. Until then, Chan was largely an introspective meditation practice; you looked inward to find your true self. Huineng, for example, described meditation as “clearly seeing your original nature inside yourself.” Shitou and Ma raised the eyes of Chan to the horizon. In Shitou’s words, “What meets the eye is the Way.” This true self you are looking for, they said, is not just here, in your own It's as if Mazu Daoyi were saying, "We need you to get clear right now about your own nature and the nature of life, so that you can roll up your sleeves and do something about it." CourteSyoftHeArtiStAndHouldSwortH,london Glory Glory III, 2005