Here is a long and silent street.
I walk in blackness and I stumble and fall
And rise and walk blind,
My feet trampling the silent stones and the dry leaves.
Someone behind me also tramples stones, leaves.
If I slow down, he slows;
If I run, he runs.
I turn – nobody.
Everything dark and doorless,
Only my steps aware of me
Are turning and turning amongst these corners
Which lead forever to the street
Where nobody waits for, nobody follows me,
Where I pursue a man
Who stumbles and rises and says when he sees me,
A great insight…a great insight into the very phenomenon of the ego. If you don’t look at it, it is there, it follows you like a shadow. If you look at it – nobody.
A great king asked Bodhidharma, “I have been searching and searching only for one thing: how to become egoless, because all the great masters have been saying only one thing down through the ages – become egoless and you will find God, become egoless and nirvana will be attained. And I have tried hard. I have done all that can be done, that is humanly possible, but I cannot get rid of this ego. Sir, would you be kind enough,” he said to Bodhidharma, “to help me?”
Bodhidharma looked at him – the way he used to look – those sharp, fiery eyes, penetrating. He said, “You do one thing. You have done enough, I can see it. Now you need not do any more. I will do it! Come in the morning at three o’clock, and I will finish it forever.”
The king was a little puzzled: “What nonsense is this man talking about? How can he finish my ego forever? But it seems worth trying”….
When he was going away Bodhidharma again called him, while he was going down the stairs, and said, “Listen! When you come at three o’clock in the morning, don’t forget to bring the ego with you! Bring it and I will kill it! Surely I am going to finish it!”
Now the king was even more puzzled: “What does he mean? Bring the ego? When I come it will be there. This man seems to be mad. Not only does he look…he is!” He could not sleep the whole night; he thought and thought. Many times he decided it was just foolish to go to this man in the dark night. And he had said, “Come alone!” – no bodyguards, nobody is allowed. “Who knows? This man may do something nasty. He may hit me or something, because he looks so dangerous.”
But he had been really working hard his whole life. It was worth trying, the risk had to be taken. At three o’clock he could not resist the temptation – he went; afraid, frightened, but he went. The moment he reached the cave of Bodhidharma, Bodhidharma said, “Where is your ego?! And I had told you to bring it! Have you forgotten?”