Undermining logic — more anecdotes and exchanges
In a story describing how Mazu handled other teachers who wandered by we see the way he could undermine logic and categorization. In an often repeated anecdote, a visiting teacher proposed a condition of duality, a condition equivalent to that of a switch that can be either off or on. After permitting the teacher to adopt this very un-Zen position, Mazu proceeded to demolish him:
A monk who lectured on Buddhism: "What is the teaching advocated by the Chan masters?"
Mazu: "What teachings do you maintain?"
The monk replied that he had lectured on more than twenty sutras and sastras.
Mazu: "Are you not a lion?"
The monk: "I do not venture to say that."
Mazu puffed twice.
The monk: "This is the way to teach Chan."
Mazu: "What way do you mean?"
The monk: "The way the lion leaves the den."
Mazu became silent.
The monk: "This is also the way of Chan teaching."
Mazu: "What way do you mean? . . . The lion remains in his den. When there is neither going out nor remaining in, what way would you say this was?"
The monk made no answer.
Here's a another version of this story from Zen's Chinese Heritage >>>
Mazu had posed a seemingly unanswerable question, at least a question that logic could not answer. This provocative exchange, later to be known as a mondo, was a new teaching technique that departed significantly from the earlier methods of Huineng and Shenhui, who mounted a platform, gave a sermon, and then politely received questions from the audience.
How did Mazu handle this question when it was presented to him? He fell back on the fact that reality is what we make it, and all things return to the mind. He once handled essentially the same question that he put to the visiting monk, showing how it can be done. His response is the essence of Zen.
A monk drew four lines in front of Mazu. The top line was long and the remaining three were short.
The monk to Mazu: "Besides saying that one line is long and the other three are short, what else could you say?"
Drawing one line on the ground, Mazu: "This could be called either long or short. That is my answer.''
Language is deceptive. But if it is used to construct an antilogica! question, it can equally be used to construct an antilogical reply.
Mazu often used the structure of language, with its natural capacity for parallels, as a teaching tool in itself.
A monk: "What is the meaning of Bodhidharma coming from the West?"
Mazu: "What is the meaning [of your asking] at this moment?"
The monk was interested in abstract issues (using the Chan metaphor for enlightenment's meaning); using almost identical language Mazu reminded him that the only reality that mattered was his own being, his own needs.