Emperor Wu of Liang asked Great Teacher Bodhidharma, “What is the highest meaning of the holy truths?”
Bodhidharma said, “Empty–there’s no holy.”
The emperor said, “Who are you facing me?”
Bodhidharma said, “Don’t know.”
The emperor didn’t understand.
Bodhidharma subsequently crossed the Yangtse River, came to Shaolin, and faced a wall for nine years.
Skillful means meant tough love for the emperor. This wide eyed peasant can’t help but shake his head. Why didn’t he just say, Everything Holy?
Nothing holy, everything holy
All things touched
All things touching
In each moment
What is the bridge between awareness & compassion?
Can I cross alone?
9 years hardly meets the learning curve;
Sitting, I’m jealous of the spider swinging in its hammock;
I cling to the perfected indentation in the mound of sand of my making.
Almost every moment is a field day for the clinician of desire.
Where are you Emperor, Wu?
I’m lost without the edge of your inquisition;
I need the comfort of your company, in the dark night of my vulnerability.
“Robe and Bowl”
Sustaining student and teacher
Good for digestion.
I need to face into my own doubt
and get to the heart of it.
Bodhidharma met the emperor of the Liang Dynasty, a devout Buddhist
renowned for his piety and charity, who was much given to endowing
monasteries and orphanages. Wu said: “I have endowed temples and
authorized ordinations–what is my merit?” Bodhidharma’s answer was
radical: “No merit at all.” Wu had been doing good for the sake of
accumulating merit. Bodhidharma cut through Wu’s ideas about merit to the
core of his teaching, that your practice isn’t apart from you: when your
mind is pure, you live in a pure universe; when you’re caught up in the
ideas of gaining and losing, you live in a world of delusions.
The emperor tried again: “What is the first principle of the holy
teaching?” And Bodhidharma’s answer once again cut to the quick: “Vast
emptiness, nothing holy.” There is nothing to cling to, holy is just a
word. The great dynamic universe of absolute reality flourishes, and it is
completely ordinary. The emperor did not understand what he was saying,
and Bodhidharma left his kingdom…
- Commentary by Jisho offered by Susan
No more bones for the Emperor.
Hand back the holy relics!
Who admires the harvest moon
Multiplied in ochre orbs, the lights of Valley For—
Inscrutable icon floating up from the dashboard, flashing orange!
STOP the car.
STUDY the owner’s manual.
Slowly now, bathed in headlights,
Glittering dots and matte dashes down the middle of the two-lane highway
Draw me home.
Holy or common, high or low, all empty, all true. Dropping such distinctions, you will know who I am and who you are.
Sitting for nine years facing a wall one chill Autumn evening,
Holding a thousand years of Zen just under the thumb-tips gently touching.
Sometimes it needs to get cold to fully appreciate the warmth of this soft body,
And this soft heart of bottomless love.