THE FIRST PATRIARCH
Patriarch Bodhidharma saw that the roots of Mahayana, the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma, were ripe in China. Fearing neither the distance nor the hardship of travel, he took the Dharma there. The Chinese called him "barbarian" because he talked in a way no one understood. When the children looked up at the bearded Bodhidharma, they ran away in terror. Adults feared that he was a kidnapper and so told their children to stay away from him.
Patriarch Bodhidharma went to Nan Ching where he listen to Dharma Master Shen Kuang explain the sutras. When Shen Kuang spoke, the heavens rained fragrant blossoms and a gold-petalled lotus rose from the earth for him to sit upon. However, only those with good roots, who had opened the five eyes and the six spiritual penetrations were able to see that. Now! Isn't that wonderful?
After listening to the Sutra, Bodhidharma asked, "Dharma Master, what are you doing?"
"I am explaining Sutras," Shen Kuang replied.
"Why are you explaining Sutras?"
"I am teaching people to end birth and death."
"Oh?" said Bodhidharma, "exactly how do you do that? In this Sutra which you explain, the words are black and the paper is white. How does this teach people to end birth and death?"
Dharma master Shen Kuang had nothing to say. How did he teach people to end birth and death? He fumed in silence. Then, even though heavenly maidens rained down flowers and the earth gave forth golden lotuses, Dharma master Shen Kuang. This is what I mean when I say that the Buddhadharma existed in China but it was if it were not there at all.
When angry, Dharma master Shen Kuang used his heavy iron beads to level opposition. In response to Bodhidharma's question, he reddened with anger and raged like a tidal wave smashing a mountain. As he whipped out his beads, he snapped, "You are slandering the Dharma!" and cracked Bodhidharma across the mouth, knocking loose two teeth. Bodhidharma neither moved nor spoke. He hadn't expected such a vicious reply.
There is a legend about the teeth of holy men. You must not ask about the principle, however, because it is too inconceivable. The legend says that if a sage's teeth fall to the ground, it won't rain for three years. Patriarch Bodhidharma thought, "If it doesn't rain for three years, people will starve! I have come to China to save living beings, not to kill them!" So Bodhidharma did not let his teeth fall to the ground. Instead, he swallowed them and disappeared down the road. Although he had been beaten and reviled, Bodhidharma could not go to the government and file suit against Dharma Master Shen Kuang. Those who have left home have to be patient. How much more must a patriarch forbear.
Bodhidharma then met a parrot imprisoned in a wicker cage. This bird was much more intelligent than the Dharma Master Shen Kuang. Recognizing Bodhidharma as the First Patriarch, the bird said.
Mind from the West.
Mind from the West.
Teach me a way
To escape from this cage.
Although Bodhidharma had received no response from people, this parrot recognized him. Hearing the birds plea for help, Bodhidharma whispered a secret expedient teaching to teach his bird how to end suffering. He said,
To escape the cage,
To escape the cage,
Put out both legs,
Close both eyes.
This is the way
To escape from the cage!
The parrot listened attentively and said, "All right! I understand," and stuck out his legs, closed his eyes, and waited.
When the bird's owner came home from work, he always played with his parrot. But this time when he looked in the cage he was shocked. The owner was on the verge of tears. he couldn't have been more upset if his son had died. He pulled opened the cage door and scooped up the bird, which lay still and quiet in his hand. The body had not yet chilled. The owner looked with disbelief at the little body. He peaked at it from left and right...it didn't even quiver. Slowly he open his hand...PHLLRTTPHLRTTPHLRTT! The bird broke loose from his hand and flew away!
Now, like the parrot, we are in a cage. How do you escape? You may say, "I am really free. If I want to eat, I eat; if I want to drink, I drink. I do not have to follow rules. I can do anything."
Don't think you are quite so clever. This is not freedom, it is just confusion. To be free, you must be free of birth and death, and then, if you wish to fly into space you can fly into space, and if you wish to drop into the earth, you can drop into the earth. If you can do this, you are truly independent. Like the parrot, you are free.
As I explain The Sixth Patriarch's Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra, I do not lecture well. This is not polite talk; it's true. Some lecture well, yet do not dare explain. After I have lectured, you of true eloquence may follow. When you opened your wisdom, you will understand.
In his anger, Dharma Master Shen Kuang knocked out two of Bodhidharma's teeth. he thought he had won a great victory because the Barbarian put forth no opposition. But not long after, the Ghost of Impermanence, wearing a high hat, paid a call on Dharma Master Shen Kuang:
"Your life ends today," said the ghost. "King Yama, the king of the dead, has sent me to escort you."
Master Shen Kuang said, "What? why must I die? When I speak the Dharma, flowers fall from the heavens and the earth bubbles forth golden lotuses, yet I still have not ended birth and death? Tell me, is there a person in this world who has ended birth and death?"
"There is," came the reply.
"Who?" asked Shen Kuang. "Tell me, and I'll follow him to study the Way."
"he is the black-faced Bhikshu whose teeth you knocked out. King Yama bows to him everyday."
"Please, Old Ghost, speak to King Yama on my behalf. I want to follow that Bhikshu. I am determined to end birth and death. Can't you allow me some more time?"
"All right," said the ghost. "Since you are sincere, King Yama will wait."
Dharma Master Shen Kuang was delighted. He was so quick to rush after Bodhidharma, that he forgot to thank the Ghost of Impermanence; in fact, he even forgot to put on his shoes. He ran until he met the parrot whom Bodhidharma had freed, and suddenly he understood, "Originally it is just this way! I need only act dead. I need only be a living dead person!"
Bodhidharma walked on, ignoring the barefoot Dharma Master following behind. Arriving at Bear's Ear Mountain in Loyang, the Patriarch sat down to meditate facing a wall. For nine years, Patriarch Bodhidharma sat meditating and Dharma Master Shen Kuang knelt beside him, seeking the Dharma.
One day a great snow fell, and it rose in drifts as high as Shen Kuang's waist, and yet he continued to kneel. Finally Patriarch Bodhidharma asked him, "Why are you kneeling here in such deep snow?"
"I want to end birth and death," replied Shen kuang. "When I was lecturing Sutras I was unsuccessful. Please, Patriarch, transmit this dharma to me."
"What do you see falling from the sky?" asked Bodhidharma.
"Snow," said Shen Kuang.
"What color is it?" asked Bodhidharma.
"It's white of course."
"When red snow falls from the sky," said Bodhidharma, "I will transmit the Dharma to you. You knocked out two of my teeth, and I have been most compassionate in not taking revenge. Do you really expect me to give you the Dharma?" This was the test that the Patriarch Bodhidharna gave to Master Shen Kuang.
How did Shen kuang complete this test? Cultivators of the Way carry a knife to protect the substance of their precepts. A true cultivator would rather cut off his head than break a precept.
Shen Kuang drew his precept knife, and with one slice, cut off his arm and thus passed his test. His blood flowed on the new fallen snow. He scooped up a bucket full of crimson snow, dumped it before Bodhidharma, and said, "Patriarch do you see? The snow is red!"
Bodhidharma said, "So it is, so it is." He had tested Shen Kuang's sincerity, and now the Patriarch was extremely happy. "My coming to China has not been in vain...I have met a person who dares to use a true mind to cultivate the Way, even forsaking his arm in search of the Dharma."
The patriarch then spoke the Dharma door of "Using the mind to seal the mind." 1 It points straight to the mind to see the nature and realize Buddhahood. While hearing this dharma, Shen Kuang didn't think about the pain in his arm, and before that he had thought only making the snow turn red. But now once again produced discursive thought: "My arm really hurts!" he said. "My mind is in pain. Please Patriarch, quiet my mind."
"Find your mind," said Bodhidharma. "Show it to me and I will quiet it for you."
Dharma Master Shen Kuang searched for his mind he looked in the ten directions: north, east, south, west, in the intermediate points, and up and down. he also looked in the seven places that the Venerable Ananda looked when Shakyamuni Buddha asked him the same question in the Shuragama Sutra.2 That is.
1. He looked inside his body;
2. he looked outside his body;
3. he looked for it hidden somewhere in his sense organs.
4. He looked where there was light;
5. He looked at the place where conditions come together.
6. He looked in the middle, between the organs and their objects;
7. And, finally he looked in the place of non-attachment, which is no place.
At last Shen Kuang said to Bodhidharma, "I can't find my mind! Great Master, it is nowhere to be found."
"This is how well I have quieted your mind," said the Patriarch. At these words, Shen Kuang understood the meaning of the Dharma transmission, the wonderful, ineffable principle.
Ten thousand dharmas return to one;
Where does the one return?
Shen Kuang did not understand,
And ran after Bodhidharma;
Before him at Bear's Ear Mountain
Knelt nine years
Seeking Dharma to escape King Yama.
In a continuance of the Transmission of the Light, with the transmission of the Dharma, Shen Kuang received the name Hui K'o which means "Able Wisdom."
Master Hui K'o asked Bodhidharma, "In India, did you transmit the dharma to your disciples? Did you also give the robe and the bowl as certification?"
"I transmitted the Dharma in India," replied Bodhidharma, "but I did not use the robe and the bowl. Indian people are straight forward. When they attain the fruit, they know they must be certified. If no one certifies them, they do not say, 'I have attained the Way! I have given proof to Arhatship! I am a Bodhisattva!' They do not speak like this."
"Many people have the Great Vehicle Root Nature, but there are also many people who lie. Having cultivated without success, such people claim to have the way. Though they have not certified the fruit, they claim to be certified sages."
While the Patriarch was in China, he was poisoned six times. Dharma Master Bodhiiruci and Vinaya Master Kuang T'ung were jealous of him. They prepared a vegetarian meal which contained a invariably fatal drug, and offered it to the Patriarch. Although he knew it was poisoned, he ate it. Then he vomited the food on to a tray, and it was transformed into a pile of writhing snakes.
After this unsuccessful attempt, Bodhiruci tried again, using an even more potent poison. Again, Bodhidharma ate the food. Then he sat atop a huge boulder and spat out the poison. The boulder crumbled into a heap of dust. In four more attempts, jealous people tried without success to poison the Patriarch.
One day, the Great Master Bodhidharma said to Hui K'o, 'I came to China because I saw people with the Great Vehicle Root Nature. now I have transmitted the Dharma and am ready to complete the stillness." After his death the Patriarch's body was buried. there was nothing unusual about his funeral.
In Northern Wei (386-532 A.D.), however, an official called Sung Yun, met Bodhidharma on the road to Chung Nan Mountain in Ts'un Ling. When they met Bodhidharma was carrying one shoe in his hand. He said to Sung Yun, "The king of your country died today. Return quickly! There is work to be done."
The official asked, "Great Master, where are you going?"
"Back to India," the Great Master replied.
"Venerable One, to whom did you transmit your Dharma?"
"In China after forty years, it will be Hui-K'o.'"
Sung Yun returned to his country and reported the incident. "Recently, in Ts'un Ling, I met the Patriarch Bodhidharma who told me that the king of our country had died and instructed me to return back to the capital. When I arrived I found it exactly as he had said. How did he know?"
His countrymen scoffed, "Bodhidharma is already dead. How could you have met him on the road?" Then they rushed to the Patriarch's grave and found it empty, with nothing inside but one shoe.
Where did Bodhidharma go? No one knows. Perhaps he came to America. Wherever he wanders, no one can recognize him, because he can change and transform according to his convenience. When he came to China he said he was one hundred and fifty years old, and when he left he was still one hundred and fifty years old. No historical references can be found.
When Bodhidharma was about to enter Nirvana he said, "I came to China and transmitted my Dharma to three people. One received my marrow, one received my bones, and one received my flesh." After the transmission, the patriarch himself no longer had a body. Great Master Hui K'o received the marrow and Ch'an Master Tao Yu received the bones.
Bhikshuni Tsung Ch'ih would recite The Lotus Sutra from memory. After she died, a green lotus flower grew from her mouth. She received Bodhidharma's flesh. In the end, Bodhidharma had no body at all. So don't look for him in America; you won't find him.