And Bodhidharma says, “There is nothing and no need and no possibility either, of attaining any merit from any outside practice. The only meritorious thing is beholding the mind.”
He could have simply said, “This is only an incentive for people; otherwise why should they allow anybody?” In fact, nobody likes his bathroom to be used by anybody else, and particularly not by strangers. It is not a public place. Everybody wants his bathroom to be private, his own, and the richer people are…. They certainly would not like the idea of strange monks wandering with dirty clothes, dirty feet because they have no shoes, perspiring in hot summer, collecting dust on the roads which were not coal tar, asphalt, or cement – they were just dusty roads for bullock carts. Rich men would not like this.
And you don’t have any idea of the rich men of those days. They used to have in their bathtubs, not ordinary water, but rosewater. It is a strange story of a strange humanity: one part is dying for food and another part of the same race of human beings takes such a costly bath – thousands of roseflowers have to be used for one bath. These people would not like vagabonds, monks, beggars – they were all beggars in their eyes – unless they had some incentive that they would get great blessings in the other world. Buddha is simply talking in business terms and he is perfectly right.
But the problem with Bodhidharma is that he cannot accept things simply as they are. He says:
Here, the bathing of monks doesn’t refer to the washing of anything tangible.
How do you wash anything intangible? A thing that is not tangible is not visible either. Only tangible things have to be washed. Your body can be given a shower but not your soul. Your clothes can be cleaned but not your being. But that does not mean that you have to use dirty clothes, that you have to remain dirty in your body.
Buddha was very aesthetic in comparison to Mahavira, his contemporary, and that’s why he has more grace than Mahavira. Mahavira has a very strong personality but he’s not graceful…a personality of a wrestler, but not the individuality of a lotus flower.
It is not accidental that Gautam Buddha has become synonymous with the lotus flower. It is so fragile and so beautiful and so graceful that no other flower on the earth even comes close to it. He wanted his monks to be sensitive, aesthetic, clean, and naturally the only way was to tell the people that if you help these poor monks with food, with a bath, with medicine, with clothes you will be getting great merit in the other world. This was simply a pragmatic affair.