Bodhidharma and Emperor Wu

Your action is punishment and your action is your reward. You are the master of your destiny.

When Bodhidharma reached China six hundred years later, there were already thirty thousand Buddhist temples, monasteries, and two million Buddhist monks in China. And two million Buddhist monks is not a small number; it was five percent of the whole population of China.

Bodhidharma

Pragyatara, Bodhidharma’s master, told him to go to China because the people who had reached there before him had made a great impact, although none of them were enlightened. They were great scholars, very disciplined people, very loving and peaceful and compassionate, but none of them were enlightened. And now China needed another Gautam Buddha. The ground was ready.

Bodhidharma was the first enlightened man to reach China. The point I want to make clear is that while Gautam Buddha was afraid to initiate women into his commune, Bodhidharma was courageous enough to be initiated by a woman on the path of Gautam Buddha. There were other enlightened people, but he chose a woman for a certain purpose. And the purpose was to show that a woman can be enlightened. Not only that, her disciples can be enlightened. Bodhidharma’s name stands out amongst all the Buddhist enlightened people second only to Gautam Buddha.

There are many legends about the man; they all have some significance. The first legend is: When he reached China — it took him three years — the Chinese emperor Wu came to receive him. His fame had reached ahead of him. Emperor Wu had done great service to the philosophy of Gautam Buddha. Thousands of scholars were translating Buddhist scrip tures from Pali into Chinese and the emperor was the patron of all that grea t work of translation. He had made thousands of temples and monasteries, an d he was feeding thousands of monks.

He had put his whole treasure at the service of Gautam Buddha, and naturally the Buddhist monks who had reached before Bodhidharma had been telling him that he was earning great virtue, that he will be born as a god in heaven. Naturally, his first question to Bodhidharma was, “I have made so many monasteries, I am feeding thousands of scholars, I have opened a whole university for the studies of Gautam Buddha, I have put my whole empire and its treasures in the service of Gautam Buddha. What is going to be my reward?”

He was a little embarrassed seeing Bodhidharma, not thinking that the man would be like this. He looked very ferocious. He had very big eyes, but he had a very soft heart — just a lotus flower in his heart. But his face was almost as dangerous as you can conceive.

With great fear, Emperor Wu asked the question, and Bodhidharma said, “Nothing, no reward. On the contrary, be ready to fall into the seventh hell.”

The emperor said, “But I have not done anything wrong — why the seventh hell? I have been doing everything that the Buddhist monks have been telling me”.

Bodhidharma said, “Unless you start hearing your own voice, nobody can help you, Buddhist or non-Buddhist. And you have not yet heard your inner voice. If you had heard it, you would not have asked such a stupid question.

“On the path of Gautam Buddha there is no reward because the very desire for reward comes from a greedy mind. The whole teaching of Gautam Buddha is desirelessness and if you are doing all these so-called virtuous acts, making temples and monasteries and feeding thousands of monks, with a desire in your mind, you are preparing your way towards hell. If you are doing these things out of joy, to share your joy with the whol e empire, and there is not even a slight desire anywhere for any reward, the very act is a reward unto itself. Otherwise you have missed the whole point.”

Emperor Wu said, “My mind is so full of thoughts. I have been trying to create some peace of mind, but I have failed an d because of these thoughts and their noise, I cannot hear what you are calling the inner voice. I don’t know anything about it”.

Bodhidharma said, “Then, four o’clock in the morning, come alone without any bodyguards to the temple in the mountain s where I am going to stay. And I will put your mind at peace, forever.”

The emperor thought this man really outlandish, outrageous. He had met many monks; they were so polite, but this one does not even bother that he is an emperor of a great country. And to go to him in the darkness of early morning at four o’clock, alone…. And this man seems to be dangerous — he always used to carry a big staff with him.

The emperor could not sleep the whole night, “To go or not to go? Because that man can do anything. He seems to be absolutely unreliable.” And on the other hand, he felt deep down in his heart the sincerity of the man, that he is not a hypocrite. He does not care a bit that yo u are an emperor and he is just a beggar. He behaves as an emperor, and in front of him you are just a beggar. And the way he has said, “I will put your mind at peace forever.”

“Strange, because I have been asking,” the emperor thought, “of many many wise people who have come from India, and they all gave me methods, techniques, which I have been practicing, but nothing is happening — and this strange fellow, who looks almost mad, or drunk, and has a strange face with such big eyes that he creates fear…. But he seems to be sinc ere too — he is a wild phenomenon. And it is worth to risk. What can he do — at the most he can kill me.” Finally, he could not resist the temptation because the man had promised, “I will put your mind at peace forever.”

Emperor Wu reached the temple at four o’clock, early in the morning in darkness, alone and Bodhidharma was standing there with his staff, just on the steps, and he said, “I knew you would be coming, although the whole night you debated whether to go or not to go. What kind of an emperor are you — so cowardly, being afraid of a poor monk, a poor beggar who has nothing in the world except this staff. And with this staff I am going to put your mind to silence.”

The emperor thought, “My God, who has ever heard that with a staff you can put somebody’s mind to silence! You can finish him, hit him hard on the head — then the whole man is silent, not the mind. But now it is too late to go back”.

And Bodhidharma said, “Sit down here in the courtyard of the temple.” There was not a single man around. “Close your eyes, I am sitting in front of you with my staff. Your work is to catch hold of the mind. Just close your eyes and go inside looking for it — where it is. The mo ment you catch hold of it, just tell me, `Here it is.’ And my staff will do the remaining thing.”

It was the strangest experience any seeker of truth or peace or silence could have ever had — but now there was no other way. Emperor Wu sat there with closed eyes, knowing perfectly well that Bodhidharma seems to mean everything he says. He looked all around — there was no mind. That staff did its work. For the first time he was in such a situation. Th e choice… if you find the mind, one never knows what this man is going to do with his staff. And in that silent mountainous place, in the presence of Bodhidharma, who has a charisma of his own…. There have been many enlightened people, but Bodhidharma stands aloof, alone, like an Everest. His every act is unique and original. His every gesture has his own signature; it is not borrowed.

He tried hard to look for the mind, and for the first time he could not find the mind. It is a small strategy. Mind exists only because you never look for it; it exists only because you are never aware of it. When you are looking for it you are aware of it, and awareness surely kills it completely. Hours passed and the sun was rising in the silent mountains with a cool breeze. Bodhidharma could see on the face of Emperor Wu such peace, such silence, such stillness as if he was a statue. He shook him and asked him, “It has been a long time. Have you found the mind?”

Emperor Wu said, “Without using your staff, you have pacified my mind completely. I don’t have any mind and I have heard the inner voice about which you talked. Now I know whatever you said was right. You have transformed me without doing anything. Now I know that ea ch act has to be a reward unto itself; otherwise, don’t do it. Who is there to give you the reward? This is a childish idea. Who is there to give you the punishment? Your action is punishment and your action is your reward. You are the master of your destiny”.

Bodhidharma said, “You are a rare disciple. I love you, I respect you, not as an emperor but as a man who has the courage just in a single sitting to bring so much awareness, so much light, that all darkness of the mind disappears.”

Wu tried to persuade him to come to the palace. He said, “That is not my place; you can see I am wild, I do things I myself don’t know beforehand. I live moment to moment spontaneously, I am very un predictable. I may create unnecessary trouble for you, your court, your people; I am not meant for palaces, just let me live in my wildness.”

OSHO

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About padmum

You could call me Dame Quixote! I tilt at windmills. I have an opinion on most matters. What I don't have, my husband Raju has in plenty. Writer and story teller, columnist and contributer of articles, blogs, poems, travelogues and essays to Chennai newspapers, national magazines and websites, I review and edit books for publishers and have specialized as a Culinary Editor and contributed content, edited and collaborated on Cookbooks. My other major interest is acting on Tamil and English stage, Indian cinema and TV. I am a wordsmith, a voracious reader, crossword buff and write about India's heritage, culture and traditions. I am interested in Vedanta nowadays.
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7 Responses to Bodhidharma and Emperor Wu

  1. tskraghu says:

    Very nice. I’m glad I found ur blog.

    Like

  2. Maxi says:

    This brings me back to a great lesson I learned from a documentary on the wild turkey — Live In The Moment.
    blessings ~ maxi

    Like

  3. rummuser says:

    Beautiful. Now you know why Osho had such a great big following.

    Like

  4. kimberley Roquas says:

    Reblogged this on Kim is thinking out loud .

    Like

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