Bodhidharma Memorial, CC 10/5
Saturday, October 5
At the time of morning service, 7:10am, Buddha Hall
Bodhidharma is known as the founder of Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism. Little is known about him historically, but there are versions of his biography that exemplify his influence on Buddhism in Asia and now the West. He is described as a monk from India who studied with Prajnadhara. Some time after completing his studies he left India for China.
As recorded in the first case of Blue Cliff Record, he met Emperor Wu of Liang, who was a patron of Buddhism. The Emperor had built many monasteries; he asked Bodhidharma what merit his generosity had earned. “No merit,” said Bodhidharma. The Emperor asked, “What is the highest meaning of the holy truths.” Bodhidharma replied, “Vast emptiness; no holiness.” The Emperor asked, “Who is facing me?" Bodhidharma replied, “I don’t know.”
After Bodhidharma left, the Emperor brought this up to Master Chih and asked him about it. Master Chih asked, “Does your majesty know who this man is?” The Emperor said, “I don’t know.” Master Chih said, “He is the Mahasattva Avalokitesvara, transmitting the Buddha Mind Seal.” The Emperor felt regretful, so he wanted to send an emissary to go invite Bodhidharma to return. Master Chih told him, “Your majesty, don’t say that you will send someone to fetch him back. Even if everyone in the whole country were to go after him, he still wouldn’t return.”
Often portrayed as “wide-eyed,” Bodhidharma, according to the stories, was at one point so frustrated by his drowsiness that he tore off his eyelids.
Image from Wikipedia: Bodhidharma and Huike [Bodhidharma’s disciple]. Ink painting by Sesshu.