Master Ma's Ordinary Mind - Preface
“Ordinary Mind is itself the Way,” said Mazu Daoyi. See what this master has to say—and discover the extraordinary nature of your own “ordinary” life.
I wanted to make a map that would serve to guide people
through the world of Master Mazu.
Whether a map is actually useable or not depends
on the scale you use. If you try to draw it in perfect
detail, it ends up growing to a scale of 1:1. Such a lifesize
map can hardly be said to be useable; on the other
hand, if you make it as general and undetailed as a
standard desktop globe, it doesn’t prove to be of much
practical use either.
If you walk along through the world of Master
Mazu, using my map as a guide, you’ll see all of the
important sights without missing a thing. However,
mine is not a conventional tourist map. When the
popular sights don’t seem very interesting, we simply
pass them by. On the other hand, when we come to a
place that I like, we take our sweet time, regardless of
whether it’s actually deemed a “sight” or not.
While walking along with Mazu, for instance, I’ll
lead you on several detours to visit people like Nanquan
and Zhaozhou. We take a little breather with these
gentlemen, and before we know it Mazu will already
be walking way up ahead of us, so we must scramble
and stumble along to catch up.
Make no mistake: This is not meant to be an analytical,
academic work. If you are looking for source
criticism and historical analysis, there are plenty of
other texts that address these issues very skillfully.
This book contains the personal reflections of an ordinary
person—written for ordinary (and extraordinary)
My prayer is that, like a butterfly crossing the
Sakhalin Strait, the words in this book will somehow
reach the heart of the reader.
Fumio Yamada’s personality comes out in his writing.
He’s the sort of person who gives you room to explore,
room to fail, room to succeed—room to be yourself.
Whether or not you agree with his interpretations or
ideas is beside the point; his aim is to learn with you,
not to teach you.
Fumio and I have spent many hours discussing Zen
and related topics together, exploring old things and
letting them become new. The conversation always
takes on a life of its own, wandering off the path, and
sometimes ending up somewhere altogether different.
As you walk through this text, you’ll enjoy a similar
dialogue. His own natural insight and sense of curiosity,
coupled with his nearly forty years of working with
Zen and classical Chinese, will bring out the human
side of the sayings of Master Mazu—which is often
lacking in English-language literature on the subject.
It is precisely this human side that makes Mazu
such an attractive figure. While mulling over his dialogues
with Fumio, I discovered a side of Zen that
hadn’t been so explicit in collections I’d read of other
masters. Mazu isn’t just about smacking people into
reality and confounding them with riddles; instead, he
speaks like someone who truly cares about the people
who have been entrusted to him. He wants them to
know that they are valuable just as they are—and once
they understand that, he wants them to go even further,
breaking down every obstacle and hindrance so
that their personality flourishes fully, so that they can
be truly alive.
That “life” that Mazu wants to nurture is still present
in the text—which only really comes alive when
you find yourself in it. Only then can the “past” contained
in the text truly become “present.” In reading
this book, you will come into conversation with both
Mazu Daoyi and Dr. Yamada—and hopefully with
yourself as well.
Overall, this translation was made with the
attempt to preserve the vibrancy of the original Zen
dialogues as well as the dynamic between them and
Dr. Yamada. Zen history is one of endless and layered
encounter, from the one between Bodhidharma and
the first Chinese Zen disciples to the ones you will
have with this very text. These are your encounters.
Whether they bring laughter, joy, warmth, or bewilderment,
above all, may they inspire and draw out the
wondrously valuable life that’s in you.