Koan of the Week
Gateless Gate #30: "Mind is Buddha"
Damei Fachang asked Mazu in all earnestness, "What is the Buddha?"
Mazu answered, "The very mind is Buddha."
If you grasp it on the spot, you wear Buddha's clothes, eat Buddha's food, speak Buddha's
words, do Buddha's deeds; you are Buddha himself. Though this may be so, Daibai has, alas,
misled not a few people into mistaking the mark on the balance for the weight itself. How
can he realize that even the mere mention of the word "Buddha" should make a man someone
say, "The very mind is Buddha," he will cover his ears and run away.
The blue sky, the bright day.
It is most detestable to hunt around;
If, furthermore, you ask, "What is Buddha?"
It is like shouting your innocence while holding the loot.
Mazu Daoyi (709-88) was a master of the 8th Generation, descending:
Huineng -> Nanyue -> Mazu
While Mazu was the only disciple of Nanyue to receive dharma transmission, Mazu is said to have transmitted the dharma to 84 disciples (some sources say 139), of whom 13 are particularly well-known. One of them, Damei Fachang (752 - 839), is featured in this koan.
For the first five generations, each master had only transmitted disciple of record:
Bodhidharma (450?-532) -> Huike (487-593) -> Sengcan (526?-606) -> Daoxin (580-631) -> Hongren (601-74).
Hongren transmitted to three disciples, but only one, Huineng (638-713) had dharma descendants. Huineng had six dharma descendents, of which two (Qingyuan and Nanyue) produced the two main branches of Zen. Qingyuan and Nanyue each had but one disciple, thus, the two branches after Huineng are the Qingyuan (660-740) -> Shitou (700-90) branch and the Nanyue (677-744) -> Mazu (709-88) branch.
Of the "Five Houses of Zen", three emerged from the Shitou branch (the Caodong, Fayan, and Yunmen houses) and two from the Mazu branch (Linji and Guiyang). Of these Five Houses, two of them survive as the two significant forms of Japanase Zen: Caodong (known in Japanese as Soto) and Linji (known in Japanese as Rinzai). Certain of the distinctive attributes of Caodong Zen are already evident in the accounts we have of Shitou, and certain distinctive attributes of Linji Zen are already evident in the record we have of Mazu, Linji's dharma great-grandfather. For instance, many of the teaching devices that came to be identified with Zen, especially Linji's Zen -- e.g., shouts, blows, enigmatic questions -- were first used by Mazu.
Along the lines of this koan, Mazu has also been quoted saying,
"If you wish to know your mind, this very one that is talking now is your mind. This is what is called the Buddha, and is the true dharmakaya of the Buddha, and is also called the Way."Compare also this passage from the Avatamsaka Sutra (a sutra which, in the translation by T. Cleary is 1643 pp.):
"As mind is, so is the Buddha;
As the Buddha is, so are living beings.
One should know that the Buddha's and mind's
Essential nature is boundless."