He cut off one arm and threw it before Bodhidharma and said, “If you don’t turn immediately towards me, I am going to cut my head too.”
Bodhidharma quickly turned, and said, “So you have come! I have been waiting for nine years.”
Unless a man is ready to stake his very life, the transformation is not possible.
So this monk, asking Daizui, said, “One of the ancients, I have heard, stood in the snow and cut off his arm. What truth was he seeking?”
Daizui replied, “He didn’t cut off his arm.”
The monk protested, “He did cut it off! Why do you say that he didn’t?”
The fact is, he did. But the truth is, he did not.
There was no effort when he cut off his arm; it was as relaxed as if nothing was happening. Hence the truth is, he did not cut it. The fact is, he did cut it. And Zen is concerned with the truth, not with the fact.
Daizui observed, “He was enjoying being in the snow.”
He was enjoying perfectly. Even if he had cut his head, he was so relaxed, so trustful. And his search was his absolute determination. For that search, to give your arm or your head does not mean anything. Your arms will sooner or later melt into the earth. Your head, your body will be some day put into the earth.
“So what are you talking about?” Daizui said. “The man did not cut off his arm; he was enjoying it as tremendously as possible.” And the turning of Bodhidharma was such a great point in turning his whole being…he became the successor of Bodhidharma.
When Bodhidharma left China to go into the Himalayas and to disappear into the eternal snows…. He was getting old, and it was time to search the right place to disappear into the ultimate.
He called his four disciples and asked them, “What is the essence of Buddha’s teaching?”
One came forward and said, “To know oneself is the essence of Buddha’s teaching.”
Bodhidharma said, “You are right, but not enough to be my successor. Just sit down. You have my skin only, you have not gone deeper.”
The second man came, and the same question: “What is the essential teaching of the Buddha?” The man said, “Attaining to no-self.”
The first had said, “Knowing the self.” The second one said, “Attaining to no-self, to nothingness, to utter innocence where the idea of `I am’ does not arise.”