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New methods

Mazu . . . developed non-meditative tricks for nudging a disciple into the state of “no-thought."

Mazu's real immortality derives from his contribution to the arsenal of methods for shocking novices into enlightenment, methods still found in Zen today. You will recall that Huineng neglected to explain exactly what a person should do to "see into one's own nature." Mazu apparently was the first master who developed non-meditative tricks for nudging a disciple into the state of "no-thought."  He was an experimenter, and he pioneered a number of methods that later were perfected by his followers and the descendants of his followers.

Before Mazu, Zen training had been both austere and sedate, characterized by inspirational lectures and intense meditation. He was the first master to ask a novice an unanswerable question, and then while the person struggled for an answer, to shout in his ear (he liked the syllable "Ho!") hoping to jolt the pupil into a non-dualistic mind state.

Another similar technique was to call out someone's name just as the person was leaving the room, a surprise that seemed to bring the person up short and cause him to suddenly experience his original nature. A similar device was to deliver the student a sharp blow as he pondered a point, using violence to focus his attention completely on reality and abort ratiocination.

Other tricks included responding to a question with a seemingly irrelevant answer, causing the student to sense the irrelevancy of his question. He sometime would send a pupil on a "goose chase" between himself and some other enlightened individual at the monastery, perhaps in the hope that bouncing the novice from one personality to another would somehow shake his complacency. Whatever the technique, his goal was always to force a novice to uncover his original nature for himself. He did this by never giving a straight answer or a predictable response and therefore never allowing a disciple-to lapse into a passive mental mode.