I think sometimes what is meant by good karma, when it comes to Buddhism, is our ability to understand what the Buddha is saying. Believe me, I have encountered people who don’t get it even though they are so-called practitioners. If a person heavily relies on externalities such as attending Zen temples, wearing robes, and sitting on a zafu, they’ve missed 99% of what the Buddha taught who, by the way, remains the head of the so-called Zen lineage which is more like a Sangha of the spiritually awakened.
These same people take the Zen koans at a literal level so that Zen masters seem like crazy people in the example of a monk asking Ummon (C., Yunmen), “What is the Buddha?” and Ummon replying, “It is a shit-wiping stick.” However, Ummon’s reply was not meant for worldly ears. He was in a Zen temple. It’s for awakening. On the same track, we are not to regard the Buddha as a person. In Zen, Mind is the Buddha according to Bodhidharma.
The monk’s question was really about absolute Mind. But such a question cannot be answered with dead words—that is not a liberating method. The monk wants a direct experience of Mind even though he is fettered with ideas about what Mind is. These ideas or understandings have to be cut away in a flash.
These kinds of encounters are a golden opportunity for a Zen master to paralyze the monk’s bad habits of trying to gain awakening. The Zen master must strike fast and hard with some unexpected gesture or words. Hopefully, in an instant the monk will catch a flash of pure Mind, directly. Then the monk will be filled with unbelievable light sealing his realization.
In this instant two hearts become one. That which animates the Zen master and that which animates the monk are one. This is the real Buddha—the Mind. Afterwards, everything the Zen master does, I can imagine, is hilarious for a newly awakened monk. Ummon was no crazy guy, nor is Zen Buddhism easy to master. A person needs good karma.