These details were essential though they look like trivia. You think, “What nonsense is this? A Gautam Buddha should talk about spirituality, about growth and awareness and freedom and he is talking about these small matters.” But he had to for the simple reason because he accepted the idea of renouncing the world. Once people renounce the world they are bound to become burdens…and on poor societies.
So when Buddha says that one who gives his bathhouse to be used by a monk earns great virtue, he is simply trying to persuade people that they should not think of it as a burden, but as a blessing.
When a monk accepts the food you offer he is not obliged to you, Buddha says. You are obliged to him. Just his receiving your food, on your part gives great virtue. Perhaps you have given your own food, perhaps you have given your children’s food, but you have sacrificed something and you have respected a man who has no possessions, no money.
Buddha has said that the mother is blessed who gives birth to a child who is going to renounce the world. The father is blessed who has a child who is going to renounce the world. They are renouncing the world just to develop their potential to its ultimate. Help them. If you cannot raise your consciousness, at least you can help in some small way those who are making the tremendous effort of raising their consciousness to its ultimate illumination.
Hence, whether it is trivia or not, it would have been perfectly good if Bodhidharma had accepted the sutra as it was. And what I have said, he should have said. But he himself is feeling embarrassed, so he starts trying again, saying it is a metaphor for something invisible, and that makes his whole approach fallacious. I will read the sutra and then I will read his fictitious explanations. The sutra is absolutely clear; it needs no clarification.
But the Bathhouse Sutra says, “By contributing to the bathing of monks, people receive limitless blessings.” This would appear to be an instance of external practice achieving merit. How does this relate to beholding the mind?
The disciple is asking Bodhidharma: You say beholding the mind is enough, but Buddha is talking about such small things. In your beholding the mind is there any place for such things?
The simple answer would have been: I am talking about the essential and Buddha is talking about both the essential and the nonessential. He is taking care not only of what the monk has to do. The monk has to behold his mind; that is his only essential practice – awareness, vipassana, watching, witnessing. But also, the poor monk needs food; he needs some shelter in rain, he needs some clothes.
Buddha has a very comprehensive view. It was not just a question of a single monk but when millions of people were becoming monks, then certain rules had to be made; otherwise it would have created chaos in the whole society.