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Difficulties Are No Match For The Optimist
How can we suppose that we, the children of Buddha, are put a...

Zen And Idealism
Next Zen makes use of Idealism as explained by the Dharmalaks...

Idealistic Scepticism Concerning Religion And Morality
Similarly, it is the case with religion and morality. If we ...

Calmness Of Mind
The Yogi breathing above mentioned is fit rather for physical...

The Law Of Balance
Nature governs the world with her law of balance. She puts t...

True Dhyana
To sit in Meditation is not the only method of practising Zaz...

Nature Favours Nothing In Particular
There is another point of view of life, which gave the presen...

The Great Person And Small Person
For these reasons Zen proposes to call man Buddha-natured or ...

Buddha-nature Is The Common Source Of Morals
Furthermore, Buddha-nature or real self, being the seat of lo...

Each Smile A Hymn Each Kindly Word A Prayer
The glorious sun of Buddha-nature shines in the zenith of Enl...

The Parable Of The Robber Kih
Chwang Tsz (So-shi) remarks in a humorous way to the followi...

Buddha Dwelling In The Individual Mind
Enlightened Consciousness in the individual mind acquires for...

Buddha Is Unnamable
Give a definite name to Deity, He would be no more than what ...

Let Go Of Your Idle Thoughts
[FN#263] A famous Zenist, Mu-go-koku-shi, is said to ha...

Enlightenment Implies An Insight Into The Nature Of Self
We cannot pass over, however, this weighty problem without sa...

The Bad Are The Good In The Egg
This is not only the case with a robber or a murderer, but al...

Where Then Does The Error Lie?
Where, then, does the error lie in the four possible proposit...

Zen Under The Toku-gana Shogunate
Peace was at last restored by Iye-yasu, the founder of the To...

Zen Is Iconoclastic
For the followers of Bodhidharma, however, this conception of...

Zazen And The Forgetting Of Self
Zazen is a most effectual means of destroying selfishness, th...

Bodhidharma And The Emperor Wu

No sooner had Bodhidharma landed at Kwang Cheu in Southern China than
he was invited by the Emperor[FN#24] Wu, who was an enthusiastic
Buddhist and good scholar, to proceed to his capital of Chin Liang.
When he was received in audience, His Majesty asked him: We have
built temples, copied holy scriptures, ordered monks and nuns to be
converted. Is there any merit, Reverend Sir, in our conduct? The
royal host, in all probability, expected a smooth, flattering answer
from the lips of his new guest, extolling his virtues, and promising
him heavenly rewards, but the Blue-eyed Brahmin bluntly answered: No
merit at all.
This unexpected reply must have put the Emperor to shame and doubt in
no small degree, who was informed simply of the doctrines of the
orthodox Buddhist sects. 'Why not,' he might have thought within
himself, 'why all this is futile? By what authority does he declare
all this meritless? What holy text can be quoted to justify his
assertion? What is his view in reference to the different doctrines
taught by Shakya Muni? What does he hold as the first principle of
Buddhism?' Thus thinking, he inquired: What is the holy truth, or
the first principle? The answer was no less astonishing: That
principle transcends all. There is nothing holy.

[FN#24] The Emperor Wu (Bu-Tei) of the Liang dynasty, whose reign
was A.D. 502-549.]

The crowned creature was completely at a loss to see what the teacher
meant. Perhaps he might have thought: 'Why is nothing holy? Are
there not holy men, Holy Truths, Holy Paths stated in the scriptures?
Is he himself not one of the holy men?' Then who is that confronts
us? asked the monarch again. I know not, your majesty, was the
laconic reply of Bodhidharma, who now saw that his new faith was
beyond the understanding of the Emperor.

The elephant can hardly keep company with rabbits. The petty
orthodoxy can by no means keep pace with the elephantine stride of
Zen. No wonder that Bodhidharma left not only the palace of the
Emperor Wu, but also the State of Liang, and went to the State of
Northern Wei.[FN#25] There he spent nine years in the Shao
Lin[FN#26] Monastery, mostly sitting silent in meditation with his
face to the wall, and earned for himself the appellation of 'the
wall-gazing Brahmin.' This name itself suggests that the
significance of his mission was not appreciated by his
contemporaries. But neither he was nor they were to blame, because
the lion's importance is appreciated only by the lion. A great
personage is no less great because of his unpopularity among his
fellow men, just as the great Pang[FN#27] is no less great because of
his unpopularity among the winged creatures. Bodhidharma was not
popular to the degree that he was envied by his contemporary
Buddhists, who, as we are told by his biographers, attempted to
poison him three times,[FN#28] but without success.

[FN#25] Northern Gi dynasty (A.D. 386-534).

[FN#26] Sho-rin-ji, erected by the Emperor Hiao Ming of Northern Wei
A.D. 497.

[FN#27] Chwang-tsz in his famous parable compares a great sage with
the Pang, an imaginary bird of enormous size, with its wings of
ninety thousand miles. The bird is laughed at by wrens and sparrows
because of its excessive size.

[FN#28] This reminds us of Nan Yoh Hwui Sz (Nan-gaku-e-shi, died
A.D. 577), who is said to have learned Zen under Bodhidharma. He says
in his statement of a vow that he was poisoned three times by those
who envied him.

Next: Bodhidharma And His Successor The Second Patriarch

Previous: Introduction Of Zen Into China By Bodhidharma

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