(Huai-Jang Nan-Yueh, Hoai Nhuong)
The famous tile-grinding story refers to Great Master
Ma Tsu Tao-I’s meeting with his teacher, Huai Jang of Nan Yueh, one of
the foremost heirs of the Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng. Here is the excerpt
from the Ching Te Ch’uan Teng Lu (Record of Transmission of the Lamp) as
rendered by Cleary and Cleary in the appendix to The Blue Cliff Record:
During the K’ai Yuan era (713 – 741) an ascetic named
Tao-I was dwelling in the Ch’uan Fa Temple; all day he sat meditating.
Huai Jang knew that he was a vessel of Dharma, and went to question him:
“Great Worthy, what are you aiming at by sitting meditation?”
Ma replied, “I aim to become a Buddha.”
Jang then took a tile and began to rub it on a rock in
front of the hermitage; Ma asked him what he was doing rubbing the tile.
Jang said, “I am polishing it to make a mirror.”
Ma said, “How can you make a mirror by polishing a tile?”
Jang said, Granted that rubbing a tile will not make a
mirror, how can sitting meditation make a Buddha?”
Ma asked, “Then what would be right?”
Jang said, “It is like the case of an ox pulling a cart:
if the cart does not go, would it be right to hit the cart or would it
be right to hit the ox?” Ma didn’t reply.
Jang went on to say, “Do you think you are practicing
sitting meditation, or do you think you are practicing sitting Buddahood?
If you are practicing sitting meditation, meditation is not sitting or
lying. If you are practicing sitting Buddahood, ‘Buddha’ is not a fixed
form. In the midst of transitory things, one should neither grasp nor reject.
If you keep the Buddha seated, this is murdering the Buddha; if you cling
to the form of sitting, this is not attaining its inner principle.”
Ma heard this teaching as if he was drinking ambrosia.
He bowed and asked, “How shall I concentrate so as to merge with formless
Jang said, “Your study of the teaching of the mind ground
is like planting seeds; my expounding the essence of reality may be likened
to the moisture from the sky. Circumstances are meet for you, so you shall
see the Way.”
Ma also asked, “If the Way is not color or form, how can
I see it?”
Jang said, “The reality eye of the mind ground can see
the way. Formless absorption is also like this.”
Ma asked, “Is there becoming and decay, or not?”
Jang said, “If one sees the Way as becoming and decaying,
compounding and scattering, that is not really seeing the Way. Listen to
Mind ground contains various seeds; When there is moisture,
all of them sprout. The flower of absorption has no form; What decays and
Ma heard this and his understanding opened up. His heart
and mind were transcendent. He served his master for ten years, day by
day going deeper into the inner sanctum.
(This meeting probably took place in the mid 730’s. Huai
Jang had six adept pupils, but he said it was Ma Tsu who realized his “heart.”)
Ma Tsu Record
(another version of the above)
see also his teacher:
and his student:
Buddhism: A History : India and China with a
Supplement on the Northern School of Chinese Zen
information and order from:
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