There is a well-known story from China about Zen Master Ma Jo (Mazu in Chinese) and his famous student Baek Jang (Paichang in Chinese). Ma Jo lived in the 8th century and was one of the most famous Zen Masters of the Tang dynasty.

One day, Master Ma Jo and Baek Jang were walking together, and they saw some wild ducks fly by.
Ma Jo said, “What is that?”
Baek Jang said, “Wild ducks.”
Then Ma Jo said, “Where have they gone?”
Baek Jang said, “They’ve flown away.”
Finally, the Great Master twisted Baek Jang’s nose. Baek Jang cried out in pain and the Great Master said, “What has flown away?”

At that point, something was understood.

Where is it going?

Our life sometimes seems to be quite complex and then something appears. Something may touch us deeply inside, we often say it “hits” us. Usually, this is connected with one of the following: old age, sickness, and death. – What is that? What is happening? When someone dies, where does that person go? When you talk to new parents, they’re often overwhelmed with amazement and wonder that suddenly a new life is here: where did that life come from?

Most of the time we spend analyzing and thinking about the past or planning for the future. We don’t meet what’s really going on right now: The black letters on the screen, the breathing, the air that fills the lungs, the lower belly moving with the breathing, the heartbeat. What is that? Where is it going?

Be aware of your nose! 

Understanding will not help us. Some people say, “you cannot eat the menu”. Well, you could try, but it won’t be satisfying and in fact, it will not be good for you. Can we take down the opposite-thinking guards and meet “What’s that?” without any armor? Someone asked, “doesn’t that feel a bit lonely?” Are we alone or together on this journey? – Be aware of your nose! 

Here is another story, this time from the news: During his 800 m semifinal heat, a runner’s hopes of making the final ended when he fell to the ground mid-race after another runner tripped over him. However, as the pair began to pick themselves up, they extended a hand to one another, pulling each other back up onto their feet. They then put their arms around each other, jogging together to the finish line. – Who won? Who lost?

If we find that, then we have twisted Ma Jo’s nose.

➾ Deutsche Fassung