Do not say, “I understand! I have attained mastery!” If you have attained mastery, then why are you going around asking other people questions? As soon as you say you understand Zen, people watch whatever you do and whatever you say, wondering why you said this or that. If you claim to understand Zen, moreover, this is actually a contention of ignorance. What about the saying that one should “silently shine, hiding one’s enlightenment”? What about “concealing one’s name and covering one’s tracks”? What about “the path is not different from the human mind”?
Instant Zen (Foyan) #4: Seeing and Doing
There is a Zen slap that is often spoken by slick Roshies that goes something like this: Those who talk don’t know.
It is actually a Taoist quote from Laozi, yet it serves the purpose of shutting down rival tigers in the zen world.
From Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: The Earthquake
One day there was an earthquake that shook the entire Zen temple. Parts of it even collapsed! Many of the monks were terrified. When the earthquake stopped the teacher said, “Now you have had the opportunity to see how a Zen man behaves in a crisis situation. You may have noticed that I did not panic. I was quite aware of what was happening and what to do. I led you all to the kitchen, the strongest part of the temple. It was a good decision, because you see we have all survived without any injuries. However, despite my self-control and composure, I did feel a little bit tense – which you may have deduced from the fact that I drank a large glass of water, something I never do under ordinary circumstances.” One of the monks smiled, but didn’t say anything. “What are you laughing at? asked the teacher. “That wasn’t water,” the monk replied, “it was a large glass of soy sauce.”
Many Zen students think that Self-mastery is being emotionless, so detached and single-minded, yet in the above example, we see how that really is not self-mastery.
IMHO, self-mastery is always having a choice and not letting pre-programmed ‘reactions’ or brainwashing and conditioning make the decisions for you.
A Zen teacher in a face-to-face situation can help you see your own programming, the brainwashing and the conditioning that you think is “YOU”. The monastic life is like a filter, in which a lot of what you think you are is caught up in the structures and forms of the training and shown to you directly.
Zen teachers actually don’t teach anything, you teach yourself by allowing the Zen Teacher to show you yourself!
Self Mastery is gained when you no longer ‘react’ rather you respond.