Bodhidharma said, “There is nothing holy, there is nothing unholy. Everything is as it is. Holiness, unholiness, are our mind attitudes, prejudices. This is tathata, suchness: things are simply as they are. Nothing is wrong and nothing is right. Nothing is sin and nothing is virtue.”
The emperor said, “You are too much for me and for my people.”
Bodhidharma said good-bye, turned back, moved to the mountains. For nine years he was sitting in the mountains facing a wall. People will come, because this conversation – if you can call it a conversation – reached faraway places. “The emperor has been hammered like anything, has been crushed. And this Bodhidharma is really something very strange, but he has the quality…some integrity, some strange perfume surrounds him. He is surrounded by an aura of his own.”
People started coming from faraway places to see him, and they would ask him, “Why don’t you look at us? Why do you go on looking at the wall?”
And Bodhidharma will say, “I am waiting for the right man. When he comes, I will look at him. Otherwise it is all the same whether I look at the wall or I look at your faces. And the wall can be forgiven because it is a wall. You cannot be forgiven. Hence, it is better for me to look at the wall and not to look at you. You have fallen in such unawareness that I would like to shake you out of it. But then you feel angry, then you feel offended. I don’t want to bother you. I will turn only towards the man who has the capacity, the courage to be with me, to be my disciple.”
And only after many years did one man turn up. He stood for twenty-four hours behind Bodhidharma not saying a single word. Finally Bodhidharma had to ask, “Why are you standing behind me?”
He said, “Now it is you who are starting it. I have come to kill myself if you don’t turn towards me.”
And he cut his hand off with his sword and presented it to Bodhidharma and he said, “Take it as a token. Next I will cut my head. Otherwise turn towards me immediately!”
Bodhidharma had to turn. He looked at the man, smiling, and said, “So you are my disciple! So the man has come for whom I have been waiting.”
Bodhidharma was the first patriarch of Zen, and this man was the second patriarch of Zen, and a new tradition started. A new river was born from the source of Bodhidharma.
These fragments were found just at the beginning of this century. They were excavated by M.A. Stein from Tun-Huang. These are notes from some unknown disciples of Bodhidharma. They consist of a question by a disciple and the answer by Bodhidharma.
These notes, fragmentary as they are, still are of great significance: they represent the essential core of Buddha’s message. It is going to be a little arduous to understand them. Be very attentive and silent because these are not ordinary words.