Emperor Wu reached the temple at four o’clock, early in the morning in darkness, alone, and Bodhidharma was standing there with his staff, just on the steps, and he said, “I knew you would be coming, although the whole night you debated whether to go or not to go. What kind of an emperor are you – so cowardly, being afraid of a poor monk, a poor beggar who has nothing in the world except this staff. And with this staff I am going to put your mind to silence.”
The emperor thought, “My God, who has ever heard that with a staff you can put somebody’s mind to silence! You can finish him, hit him hard on the head – then the whole man is silent, not the mind. But now it is too late to go back.”
And Bodhidharma said, “Sit down here in the courtyard of the temple.” There was not a single man around. “Close your eyes, I am sitting in front of you with my staff. Your work is to catch hold of the mind. Just close your eyes and go inside looking for it – where it is. The moment you catch hold of it, just tell me, ‘Here it is.’ And my staff will do the remaining thing.”
It was the strangest experience any seeker of truth or peace or silence could have ever had – but now there was no other way. Emperor Wu sat there with closed eyes, knowing perfectly well that Bodhidharma seems to mean everything he says. He looked all around – there was no mind. That staff did its work. For the first time he was in such a situation. The choice…if you find the mind, one never knows what this man is going to do with his staff. And in that silent mountainous place, in the presence of Bodhidharma, who has a charisma of his own…. There have been many enlightened people, but Bodhidharma stands aloof, alone, like an Everest. His every act is unique and original. His every gesture has his own signature; it is not borrowed.
He tried hard to look for the mind, and for the first time he could not find the mind. It is a small strategy. Mind exists only because you never look for it; it exists only because you are never aware of it. When you are looking for it you are aware of it, and awareness surely kills it completely. Hours passed and the sun was rising in the silent mountains with a cool breeze. Bodhidharma could see on the face of emperor Wu such peace, such silence, such stillness as if he was a statue. He shook him and asked him, “It has been a long time. Have you found the mind?”
Emperor Wu said, “Without using your staff, you have pacified my mind completely. I don’t have any mind and I have heard the inner voice about which you talked. Now I know whatever you said was right. You have transformed me without doing anything. Now I know that each act has to be a reward unto itself; otherwise, don’t do it. Who is there to give you the reward? This is a childish idea. Who is there to give you the punishment? Your action is punishment and your action is your reward. You are the master of your destiny.”
Bodhidharma said, “You are a rare disciple. I love you, I respect you, not as an emperor but as a man who has the courage just in a single sitting to bring so much awareness, so much light, that all darkness of the mind disappears.”