Do you see the telegraphic language? He has been asked by Emperor Wu the first principle of holy teachings and he is saying emptiness is the first, but don’t call it holiness – there is no holiness. When everything is holy what is the point to call something holy? Categories are possible only when something can be unholy.
To the experience of the awakened there is only nothingness so pure, so lovely so beautiful.
But it is difficult to call it holy because that beautiful word has been corrupted by the religions, by creating a fictitious entity: unholiness. Just to make somebody a saint they have made the whole of humanity sinners.
The reality is: there is no saint and there are no sinners; there are only people who are asleep and there are only people who are awake. The difference is so small that just a little ice-cold water thrown into your eyes – and the difference disappears.
“Emptiness, no holiness” – and Bodhidharma has said all that can be said. In fact he has said even that which cannot be said; his teaching is complete. He has come to the full point in a single sentence – not even a complete grammatical sentence, but just a hint: “Emptiness, no holiness.”
Emperor Wu was one of the greatest emperors of China, a very cultured man. It hit him very strongly. He never expected that anybody should misbehave in front of the great emperor. And this man does not even say, “Your Holiness” or “Your Highness.” He does not even address the emperor. All that he says is: “Emptiness, no holiness.”
Certainly he must have been angry inside; it is natural – he had been waiting for three years. Bodhidharma took three years to reach – and he had heard so much about the man and the man seems to be a very strange fellow, a little weird. Offended but not showing it, behaving like a cultured, sophisticated hypocrite, he again asked,
“Then who is this standing before me?”
If the first principle of existence is emptiness and there is nothing holy, then who are you, who is this standing before me?
Great was Bodhidharma. I cannot conceive of anybody else in his place when I see his answer. It is simply just his own, absolutely authentic. He does not bother that the emperor is offended – he offends even more. But what he says is such a great truth that he is not responsible.
Truth always offends.
That’s why truth is always crucified.
He simply said,