Japanese Emperor Goyozei practiced Zen with guidance from Zen Mater Gudo Toshoku. One day Emperor Goyozei asked Master Gudo, “In Zen this very mind is Buddha. Is this correct?” Master Gudo replied, “If I say yes, you will think that you understand without understanding. If I say no, I would be contradicting a face which many understand quite well.” After this reply Emperor Goyozei had another question, “Where does the Zen master go when he dies?” Master Gudo replied, “I don’t know.” Emperor Goyozei asked him, “Why don’t you know?” Master Gudo said, “Because I have not died yet.”
Someone asked the same question to Zen Master Zhaozhou. He asked, “After a life of a hundred years, where do you end up?” Zhaozhou replied, “I will go to hell.” This man couldn’t understand why Zhaozhou, who was a Zen Master, would go to hell. He said, “But you are a paragon of virtue. Why will you descend to hell?” Zhaozhou replied, “If I don’t enter hell, who will be there to enlighten you?” Master Zhaozhou concealed derision towards this man, thinking to himself, “Why do you care about where I’m going. You should care more about yourself.” It is for this reason that Zen masters live and die free/unrestricted.
“Where does Buddha or the Zen master go after he dies?” is a pretty common question in Buddhism. Usually there is no answer because Buddha and Zen masters don’t always answer questions. Just because Buddha or a Zen master will go to heaven after they die doesn’t mean you will also go to heaven.
These days the internet is a very convenient way to connect with other people. We can see many martial arts videos posted on websites. I sometimes read where people have commented about my style, as well as other people’s movements, as being good or bad. These guys make comments like they are experts in martial arts, but I don’t know how good they are. I’m curious about their motives when they call label my style. Does my “bad” style make their martial arts good? Or if my movements are “good” does this also make their style good?
Sakyamuni was Buddha regardless of whether people thought he was good or bad. Even if you don’t believe it, he was still a Buddha. Similarly, only believing in Buddha will not give you enlightenment. So when people constantly care about how others are practicing (good or bad) they are not improving themselves. They should think more about their own practice/themselves.