Mazu Daoyi

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the Ch'an master. For the Taoist goddess, see Matsu (goddess).
Also, "Baso" redirects here. For the island, see Baso (island).
Mazu Daoyi
School Ch'an
Born 709
Died 788
Senior posting
Title Ch'an-shih
Religious career
Teacher Nanyue Huairang

Mǎzŭ Dàoyī (709–788) (Chn: 馬祖道一, WG: Ma-tsu Kiangsi Tao-yi, Jpn: Baso Dö-itsu[a]) was an influential abbot of the Chinese Ch'an School (Chn: Ch'an-tsung[b]) of Buddhism during the Tang Dynasty. His teaching style of "strange words and extraordinary actions"[1] became paradigmatic Zen lore.


Mazu family name was Ma (Ma-tsu meaning Ma the Father or Master Ma).[2][c] He was born in 709 in Sichuan province (northwest of Chengdu). During his years as master Mazu lived in Kiangsi province, from which he derived his Chinese name Kiangsi Tao-i).[3]

In the Transmission of the Lamp (Ching-te Ch'uan-teng-lu, compiled in 1004) Mazu is described as follows:

His appearance was remarkable. He strode along like a bull and glared about him like a tiger. If he stretched out his tongue, it reached up over his nose; on the soles of his feet were imprinted two circular marks.[4][d]

According to the Transmission of the Lamp (1004) Mazu was a student of Nanyue Huairang (677-744), in Hunan province by Hengshan[5][e]

Traditionally a story in the entry on Nanyue Huairang in the Transmission of the Lamp is regarded as Mazu's enlightenment-account, though the text does not claim it as such.[6] An earlier and more primitive version of this story appears in the Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall (transcribed in 952):

Reverend Ma was sitting in a spot, and Reverend Rang took a tile and sat on the rock facing him, rubbing it. Master Ma asked, 'What are you doing?' Master [Huairang] said, 'I'm rubbing the tile to make it a mirror.' Master Ma said, 'How can you make a mirror by rubbing a tile?' Master [Huairang] said, 'If I can't make a mirror by rubbing a tile, how can you achieve buddhahood by sitting in meditation?'[7][f]

This story echoes the Vimalakirti Sutra and the Platform Sutra in downgrading puricative and gradual disciplines, instead of the direct insight into the True Nature.[8]

Mazu's Hongzhou school[edit]

Main article: Hongzhou school

Mazu became Nanyue Huairang's dharmasuccessor. Eventually Mazu settled at Kung-kung Mountain by Nankang, southern Kiangsi province,[9] where he founded a monastery and gathered scores of disciples.[10]

Traditionally, Mazu is depicted as a successor in the lineage of Hui-neng, since his teacher Huairang is regarded as a student and successor of Huineng. This connection between Hui-neng and Nanyue Huairang is doubtfull, being the product of later rewritings of Chán-history to place Mazu in the traditional lineages.[11]

Mazu is perhaps the most influential teaching master in the formation of Chán Buddhism in China.[12] When Chán became the dominant school of Buddhism during the Song Dynasty, in retrospect the later Tang Dynasty and Mazu's Hongzhou school became regarded as the "golden age" of Chan.[13]

The An Lu-shan Rebellion (755-763) led to a loss of control by the Tang dynasty, which changed the position of Chan. Metropolitan Chan began to lose its status, while...

...other schools were arising in outlying areas controlled by warlords. These are the forerunnersof the Chan we know today. Their origins are obscure; the power of Shen-hui's preaching is shown by the fact that they all trace themselves to Hui-neng.[14]

The most important of these schools is the Hongzhou school (洪州宗) of Mazu, to which also belong Baizhang, Huangbo and Linji (Rinzai). Linji is also regarded as the founder of one of the Five Houses.

This school developed "shock techniques such as shouting, beating, and using irrational retorts to startle their students into realization".[15][16] These shock techniques became part of the traditional and still popular image of Chan masters displaying irrational and strange behaviour to aid their students.[17][18] Part of this image was due to later misinterpretations and translation errors, such as the loud belly shout known as katsu. In Chinese "katsu" means "to shout", which has traditionally been translated as "yelled 'katsu'" - which should mean "yelled a yell"[web 1]

During 845-846 Emperor Wu-tsung persecuted the Buddhist schools in China:

It was a desperate attempt on the part of the hard-pressed central government, which had been in disarray since the An Lu-shan rebellion of 756, to gain some measure of political, economic, and military relief by preying on the Buddhist temples with their immense wealth and extensive lands.[19]

This persecution was devastating for metropolitan Chan, but the Chan school of Ma-tsu and his likes survived, and took a leading role in the Chan of the later Tang.[19]


Mazu Daoyi's teachings and dialogues were collected and published in his Kiangsi Tao-i-ch'an-shih yu-lu (Records of the Words of Ch'an Master Tao-i from Kiangsi.[g]

Buddha Nature[edit]

Though regarded as an unconventional teacher, Mazu's teachings are in line with the Chinese emphasis on Buddha-Nature:

[L]et each of you see into his own mind. ... However eloquently I may talk about all kinds of things as innumerable as the sands of the Ganges, the Mind shows no increase... . You may talk ever so much about it, and it is still your Mind; you may not at all talk about it, and it is just the same your own Mind."[20][h][i]

Shock techniques[edit]

Mazu Daoyi, in order to shake his students out of routine consciousness, employed novel and unconventional teaching methods. Mazu is credited with the innovations of using sudden shouts (Chn: "ho"; Jpn: "katsu"),[21][j][k] surprise blows with a stick,[22] and unexpectedly calling to a person by name as that person is leaving. This last is said to summon yeh-shih (original consciousness), from which enlightenment arises.[23] Mazu also employed silent gestures,[12][24] non-responsive answers to questions, and was know to grab and twist the nose of a disciple.[25]

Utilizing this variety of unexpected shocks, his teaching methods challenged both habit and vanity, a push that might inspire suddenly the seeing of one's true nature (Chn: chien-hsing, Jpn: kensho).[12][l]

Subitism and dhyana[edit]

A well-known story depicts Mazu practicing dhyana, but being rebuked by his teacher Nanyue Huairang, comparing seated meditation with polishing a tile.[26] According to Faure, the criticism is not about dhyana as such, but "the idea of "becoming a Buddha" by means of any practice, lowered to the standing of a "means" to achieve an "end"".[26] The criticism of seated dhyana reflects a change in the role and position of monks in Tang society, who "undertook only pious works, reciting sacred texts and remaining seated in dhyana".[27] Nevertheless, seated dhyana remained an important part of the Chán-tradition, also due to the influence of Guifeng Zongmi, who tried to balance dhyana and insight.[27]

Use of koans[edit]


Mazu appears in early Chan anthologies of lineage, encounter dialogue and koans[m]

Other anthologies where Mazu appears include:

  • Records of Pointing at the Moon (compiled 1602),
  • Recorded Saying of the Ancient Worthies (compiled 1271),
  • Records of the Regular Transmission of the Dharma (1062).[q][r]


Mazu was particularly fond of using the kung'an (Jpn: koan) "What the mind is, what the Buddha is." In the particular case of Damei Fachang (Ta-mei Fa-ch'ang), hearing this brought about an awakening. Later this same statement was contradicted by Mazu when he taught the kung'an "No mind, No Buddha".:[30]

A monk asked why the Master [Mazu] maintained, "The Mind is the Buddha." The Master answered, "Because I want to stop the crying of a baby." The monk persisted, "When the crying has stopped, what is it then?" "Not Mind, not Buddha", was the answer.[31]

Other examples of koans in which Mazu figures are as follows:

When sick Mazu was asked how he felt; he replied, "Sun Face Buddha. Moon Face Buddha."[32]

P'ang asked Mazu, "Who is it who is not dependent upon the ten thousand things?" Matsu answered, "This I'll tell you when you drink up the waters of the West River in one gulp".[33]

A monk asked Mazu, "Please indicate the meaning of Ch'an directly, apart from all permutations of assertion and denial." Mazu told him to ask Zhiang. Zhiang paused, then said for him to ask Baizhang. Baizhang seemed to say he didn't understand. The monk returned to Mazu and related what happened. Mazu observed dryly that Zhiang had white hair, while Baizhang's was black.[34]


Among Mazu's immediate students were Baizhang Huaihai (WG: Po-chang Huai-hai, 720-814)[s][t][u] (Nan-ch'üan P'u-yüan, 748-835), and Damei Fachang (Ta-mei Fa-ch'ang, 752-839).

A generation later his lineage (via Baizhang) came to include Huangbo Xiyun (WG: Huang-po Hsi-yün, Jpn: Obaku Kiun, d.850), and his celebrated successor Linji Yixuan (WG: Lin-chi I-shuan, Jpn: Rinzai Gigen, d.866).[35] From Linji Yixuan derived the Lin-chi-tsung (Jpn: Rinzai) school.

A second line was Guishan Lingyou (Kuei-shan Ling-yu) (771-853), to whom the Guiyang school (Jpn. Igyo school) was named, and therein Yang-shan Hui-chi (807-883).[36][v][w] The Guiyang/Igyo school merged into the Linji school in the 10th century.

Six Patriarchs
Huineng (638-713)
(Hui-neng, Jpn. Enō)
Nanyue Huairang (677-744)
(Nan-yüeh Huai-jang, Jpn. Nangaku Ejō))
Mazu Daoyi (709-788)
(Ma-tsu Tao-i, Jpn. Baso Dōitsu)
Nanquan Puyuan (748-835)
(Nan-ch'üan p'u-yüan, Jpn. Nansen Fugan)
Baizhang Huaihai (720-814)
(Pai-chang Huai-hai, Jpn. Hyakujō Ekai)
Zhaozhou Congshen (778--879)
(Chao-chou Ts'ung-shen, Jpn. Jōshū Jūshin)
Huangbo Xiyun (d.850)
(Huang-po Hsi-yüan, Jpn. Ōbaku Kiun)
Guishan Lingyou (771-853)
(Kuei-shan Ling-yu, Jpn. Isan Reiyū)
Linji Yixuan (d.866)
(Lin-chi I-hsüan, Jpn. Rinzai Gigen)
Guiyang school
Linji school


The Hung-chou school has been criticised for its radical subitism.

Guifeng Zongmi (圭峰 宗密) (780–841), an influential teacher-scholar and patriarch of both the Chán and the Huayan school claimed that the Hung-chou tradition believed "everything as altogether true".[37]

According to Zongmi, the Hung-chou school teaching led to a radical nondualism that believed that all actions, good or bad, are expressing the essential Buddha-nature, but therefor denies the need for spiritual cultivation and moral discipline. This was a dangerously antinomian view as it eliminated all moral distinctions and validated any actions as expressions of the essence of Buddha-nature.

While Zongmi acknowledged that the essence of Buddha-nature and its functioning in the day-to-day reality are but different aspects of the same reality, he insisted that there is a difference. To avoid the dualism he saw in the Northern Line and the radical nondualism and antinomianism of the Hung-chou school, Zongmi’s paradigm preserved "an ethically critical duality within a larger ontological unity",[38] an ontology which he claimed was lacking in Hung-chou Chan.


  1. ^ Not to be confused with the Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694)
  2. ^ The earliest recorded use of the term Ch'an-tsung is evidently from Mazu Daoyi's Extensive Records.[39]
  3. ^ Here, the Chinese character for ma (third tone) signifies "horse".[40]
  4. ^ The circular marks on his feet evidently indicated a celebrated fate in Buddhism
  5. ^ Heng Shan, lying about 120 km. south of Changsha, is the southern of the five sacred mountains of Daoism[41]
  6. ^ MacRae cites Sodōshū [Anthology of the patriarchal hall], edited by Yanagida Seizan (Kyoto: Chūbun shuppansha 1972), at 72 a14-b3
  7. ^ For these Extensive Records of the dialogues of Mazu, see volume 119 of Wan-tzu hsu-tsang-ching [Newly Compiled Continuation of the Buddhist Canon] (Taipei: Hsin-wen-feng 1977), reprint of Dainippon zoku zokyo
  8. ^ Suzuki is quoting Mazu Daoyi from the Sayings of the Ancient Worthies (Ku tsun-hsiu yu-lu).
  9. ^ Regarding Buddha nature, Dharmakaya, and Tathagatagarbha doctrine in Mazu's practice teaching "This mind is Buddha's mind", see Heng-ching Shih, The Syncretism of Ch'an and Pure Land Buddhism (New York: Peter Lang 1992) at 23-24.
  10. ^ The "Ho!" technique was further developed by Linji Yixuan (d.866) who described four styles of its use piercing sword, crouching lion, sounding rod, no ho at all. In China "Kwan!" came to replace "Ho!" as the vocalism shouted.
  11. ^ According to Burton Watson, Mazu's shout originally sounded like "khat" during the T'ang era, but today it's pronounced "ho" in Chinese. Thus the Japanese "katsu" would resemble the original sound. "Translator's Introduction" to The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-Chi. A translation of the Lin-Chi-Lu (Boston: Shambhala 1993) at ix-xxx, xii.
  12. ^ Masao Abe relates a discussion by D.T. Suzuki of Ch'an Buddhist understanding in this regard. Huineng's seeing was interpreted by some as a "knowing", and hence might reify as a concept and become abstracted, contrary to the thrust of Ch'an. Mazu Daoyi instead treated Huineng's seeing as an "act". This teaching by Mazu "prospered with great vigor... because activity is nothing other than [Ch'an] itself.".[42] Eventually, Linji Yixuan developed Mazu's "action" by going further, to the perso who acts, the "true man of no rank" or the way-man (Chn: tao-jen) (Jpn: donin), i.e., the Self.[43] Huineng's seeing was prajna (Skr: transcendental intuition). Abe references to Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, Rinzai no Kihon Shiso (Tokyo: Chuokoron-sha 1949)
  13. ^ "During the T'ang the Ch'an masters placed little or no emphasis on literature and words, but during the Sung the Chinese reverence for the written word reasserted itself, and there arose what is known as literary Ch'an." E.g., the Asure Cliffs Records and various Yu-lu (Recorded Sayings) of Ch'an masters:[44]
  14. ^ in 30 volumes, it contains sayings of over 600 Ch'an masters
  15. ^ Mazu appears at koans #3 (at 25-28), #53 (255-259), #73 (324-328). At #53 Mazu discusses "wild ducks flying" with Baizhang Huaihai (WG: Pai-chang Huaihai). This collection was brought to Japan by Sōtō Zen master Dogen Kigen (1200-1253), and thereafter has received intense scrutiny, being recognized as the "foremost of Zen texts" by the Rinzai Zen school.[45]
  16. ^ Koans from the Gateless Gate text are presented, with Mazu (under his Japanese name Baso) quoted at #30 (at 114) and #33 (at 117)
  17. ^ These and other sources for Mazu Daoyi are given by Chang Chung-yuan in his Original Teachings of Ch'an Buddhism (New York: Pantheon 1969; reprint Vintage 1971) at 308-309.
  18. ^ Erudition can be suspect in Ch'an/Zen. "I know that erudition disturbs enlightenment", wrote Keizan Zenji (1268-1325) of the Soto school in the Book of the Transmission. He quotes the Kegon Sutra, "A poor man who counts another's treasure cannot have his own. Erudition is like this." Cited by Jiyu Kennett in her Selling Water by the River. A Manual of Zen Training (New York: Pantheon 1969; reprint Vintage 1972) at 38-39.
  19. ^ Baizhang drafted a new set of rules, meant especially for Ch'an monks. Edward Conze, A Short History of Buddhism (London: George Allen & Unwin 1980) at 89.
  20. ^ Baizhang composed the saying: "A day without work, a day without food." [46]
  21. ^ Baizhang was "a dedicated disciple of Mazu and served as his attendant for twenty years." [47]
  22. ^ Schuhmacher and Woerner present a chart of Mazu's lineage with forty-four names over six generations
  23. ^ The Guiyang/Igyo school's use of symbols influenced the well-known series of pictures showing a water buffalo and a herder, which demonstrates various stages of growth in Ch'an awareness. This illustrated series was made famous by K'uo-an Chih-yuan, a 12th-century Chinese master who belonged to the Chinese Linji School, from which the Japanese Rinzai school descended. See under Jugyu-no-zu (Jpn), in .[48] See also [49] and [50]


Book references[edit]

  1. ^ Dumoulin 2005-A, p. 166.
  2. ^ Suzuki 1974, p. 104.
  3. ^ Chung-Yuan 1971, p. 148 & 177; 130.
  4. ^ Dumoulin 1965, p. 97.
  5. ^ a b Chang.
  6. ^ McRae 2003, p. 80-82.
  7. ^ McRae 2003, p. 81.
  8. ^ McRae 2003, p. 81-82.
  9. ^ Chang 1971, p. 148-149, 177.
  10. ^ Chang 1971, p. 152.
  11. ^ McRae 2003, p. 82.
  12. ^ a b c Schuhmacher and Woerner (editors) 1991, p. 141.
  13. ^ McRae 2003, p. 18-21.
  14. ^ Yampolski 2003-A, p. 11.
  15. ^ Kasulis 2003, pp. 28–29.
  16. ^ Chang 1967.
  17. ^ McRae 2003.
  18. ^ Heine 2008.
  19. ^ a b Yampolski 2003-A, p. 15.
  20. ^ Suzuki 1974, p. 109.
  21. ^ Chang 1971, p. 131-132.
  22. ^ Chang 1971, p. 133-134.
  23. ^ Chang 1971, p. 88-89, 134-135.
  24. ^ Suzuki 1974, p. 110.
  25. ^ Chang 1971, p. 135, 150 (answers), 132 (nose).
  26. ^ a b Faure 1997, p. 73.
  27. ^ a b Faure 1997, p. 74.
  28. ^ Cleary 1992.
  29. ^ Reps 1958, p. 3-130.
  30. ^ Dumoulin 1965, p. 91-99.
  31. ^ Chang 1971, p. 150.
  32. ^ Cleary & 1992 25.
  33. ^ Schuhmacher and Woerner (editors) 1991, p. 168 (P'ang Yün).
  34. ^ Cleary 1992, p. 324-325.
  35. ^ Watson 1993.
  36. ^ Schuhmacher and Woerner (editors) 1991, p. 269.
  37. ^ Gregory 2002, p. 236.
  38. ^ Gregory 2002, p. 239.
  39. ^ Heng-ching 1992, p. 51 n.68.
  40. ^ Cowie 1986, p. 209 (horse) and 297 (ma).
  41. ^ Perkins 1999, p. 161-162.
  42. ^ Abe 1975, p. 71.
  43. ^ Abe 1975, p. 70-71, 71, restating Suzuki.
  44. ^ Ch'en 1964, p. 403.
  45. ^ Cleary 1992, p. 1.
  46. ^ Schuhmacher and Woerner (editors) 1991, p. 166.
  47. ^ Cleary 1992, p. 256.
  48. ^ Schuhmacher and Woerner (editors) 1991, p. 106-107.
  49. ^ Reps 1958, p. 131-156, 136-155.
  50. ^ Suzuki 1974, p. 128-129.

Web references[edit]


  • Abe, Masao (1975), Zen and Western Thought, University of Hawaii 
  • Ch'en (1964), Buddhism in China. A historical survey, Princeton University 
  • Chung-Yuan, Chang (1971) [1969, New York, Pantheon 1969], Original Teachings of Ch'an Buddhism. Selected from "Transmission of the Lamp", Vantage )
  • Cleary, Thomas (ed., transl.) (1992), The Blue Cliff Record, Boston: Shambhala 1992 
  • Cowie, A.P.; Evison, A. (1986), Concise English-Chinese Chinese-English Dictionary, Beijing: The Commercial Press 
  • Heinrich Dumoulin, Heinrich (1965), A History of Zen Buddhism, Random House McGraw-Hill 
  • Dumoulin, Heinrich (2005-A), Zen Buddhism: A History. Volume 1: India and China, World Wisdom Books, ISBN 978-0-941532-89-1  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  • Faure, Bernard (1997), The Will to Orthodoxy: A Critical Genealogy of Northern Chan Buddhism, Stanford University Press 
  • Gregory, Peter N. (2002), Tsung-mi and the Sinification of Buddhism, University of Hawai’i Press, Kuroda Institute, (originally published Princeton University Press, 1991, Princeton, N.J.), ISBN 0-8248-2623-X 
  • Heine, Steven (2008), Zen Skin, Zen Marrow 
  • McRae, John (2003), Seeing Through Zen. Encounter, Transformation, and Genealogy in Chinese Chan Buddhism, The University Press Group Ltd, ISBN 978-0-520-23798-8 
  • Perkins, Dorothy (1999), Encyclopedia of China, New York: Facts on File 1999 
  • Reps, Paul (1958), Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, Rutland/Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle 1958 
  • Schuhmacher and Woerner (editors) (1991), Fischer-Schreiber, Ehrhard, Diener, ed., The Shambala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen, Michael H. Kohn (trans.), Boston: Shambala 
  • Shih, Heng-ching (1992), The Syncretism of Ch'an and Pure Land Buddhism, New York: Peter Lang 1992 
  • Suzuki, D.T. (1974) [1934, Kyoto, Eastern Buddhist Society], Manual of Zen Buddhism, Ballantine 
  • Watson, Burton (ed., transl.) (1993), The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-chi. A translation of the Lin-chi Lu, Boston: Shambhala 
  • Yampolski, Philip (2003-A), Chan. A Historical Sketch. In: Buddhist Spirituality. Later China, Korea, Japan and the Modern World; edited by Takeuchi Yoshinori, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass  Check date values in: |date= (help)
Buddhist titles
Preceded by
Nanyue Huairang
Rinzai Zen patriarch Succeeded by
Baizhang Huaihai