The Sword of Wisdom 107

The correct attitude is to put aside all ideas of the Dharma, all methods that you have learned in the past, and all of your past experiences. Leave all of it behind and just work on your current method. Whatever you have learned in the past has given you a foundation to work from, but if you try to connect it with what you are learning now, you will create obstructions in your mind. The power of the past is with you, but you should detach yourself from it.

On the other hand, if you can retain one line of Dharma and understand it with your entire being, then no other teachings are necessary. Only exceptional practitioners, however, are capable of doing this. Ma-tzu had a disciple named Fa-ch'ang. Ma-tzu told him, "The mind is Buddha." Fa-ch'ang took the words to heart; he remembered them and practiced them. Years later, Fa-ch'ang left Ma-tzu and took up residence on Plum Mountain.

One day, Ma-tzu sent a disciple to visit Fa-ch'ang and deliver a message: "Ma-tzu has modified his Buddhadharma. He used to say 'The mind is Buddha.' Now he says, 'It is not the mind, it is not the Buddha.' What do you think?"

Fa-ch'ang replied, "Is this guy still up to his old tricks? He can change his Buddhadharma as often as he likes, but for me, I'll stick with what I have. For me, the mind is Buddha."

When the messenger returned and related Fa-ch'ang's reaction, Ma-tzu was satisfied. He praised Fa-ch'ang's achievement: "This plum is ripe."

When Ma-tzu told Fa-ch'ang that the mind is Buddha, Fa-ch'ang benefited. He recognized the benefit and retained the sentence. Later, Ma-tzu could say anything he wanted to other people, but it had nothing to do with Fa-ch'ang.