Wu looked all over inside: he could not find any ego anywhere. Ego is just imagination; it is not a reality, something that you can find. And as he was searching for the ego – and so totally, because that madman was sitting in front of him with his staff – thoughts stopped, time stopped. How two hours passed he had no idea, but he felt for the first time such a great silence, such peace.
As the sun was rising, his face was also lit with a new light. Bodhidharma shook him and told him, “It is enough. You have not found it because it is not there. Those who have looked for it have never found it, and those who go on trying to find out how to drop it, how to get rid of it, how to be free of it, remain confined in the same prison, because they never look for it first. Before you start thinking of dropping something you should find out where it is. You cannot drop something which does not exist.”
Emperor Wu touched Bodhidharma’s feet and said, “I am relieved of a burden that I thought was impossible to get rid of in this life, because those scriptures say it takes lives and lives to get rid of the ego – and you managed to finish it within seconds.”
Bodhidharma said, “I have not finished it, it was not there. It has never been there – it was only your belief.”
Bodhidharma had his own way. Wu tried hard to persuade him to enter the empire. Bodhidharma said, “You have missed – that chance you have missed; but you can always come to me. I will remain in this temple, and I will remain in the same position, sitting before a wall, facing the wall, and I will turn only when the right person comes to inquire. I am not interested in curiosity-mongers or in philosophers. Only if a real seeker comes, only then will Bodhidharma look at him, otherwise he is finished.”
It is said that for nine years he sat facing the wall. And then his successor appeared. He cut off one of his hands, threw it before him and said, “Turn, otherwise I am going to cut off my head too.” And Bodhidharma had to turn. You cannot refuse such a man, who in advance has cut off his hand, and is ready to cut off his head if you don’t turn.
Bodhidharma said, “Wait! You are the right man – I have been waiting for you.” He became his successor, and before leaving China to go back to the Himalayas in his old age…. The Himalayas have been for centuries the place where the awakened ones, the masters, the mystics have loved to die – it is so peaceful…. Before going he called his four chief disciples and asked them, “What is Zen? This is going to be your examination – a single question – because I want to choose my successor.”
The man who had cut off one of his hands was also among them. One man said, “Zen is silence, peace, the experience of oneself.”
Bodhidharma said, “You have my boots.” That’s how he was – his way of expression was his own.
The second one said, “Zen is the transformation of consciousness into super-consciousness.”
And Bodhidharma said, “You have my flesh.”