Bodhidharma said, “To put things in the right perspective from the very beginning. I am an absurd man! You have to understand it from the very beginning. I don’t want to create any trouble later on. Either you accept me as I am or you simply say that you cannot accept me, and I will leave your kingdom. I will go to the mountains. I will wait there for my people to come to me. This is just to show you that I am illogical, I can be as absurd as one can imagine. That is my way of working. That is my way of destroying your mind. And unless your mind is destroyed you will not know who you are. So what do you say?”
The king was at a loss. He had come with a few questions, but whether to ask this man those questions or not? – because he may say something ridiculous. Not only that, he may do something ridiculous.
But Bodhidharma insisted, “It is better that you ask whatsoever you have come to ask.”
The king said, “The first question is: I have been doing many virtuous deeds….”
And Bodhidharma looked deeply into the eyes of the king – a shiver must have gone through his spine! – and said, “All nonsense! How can you do a virtuous deed? You are not yet aware. Virtue is a by-product of awareness. What virtuous deeds do you mean? You look like a fool. How can you do a virtuous deed? Virtue follows a buddha, virtue is my shadow.” He said, “You can only do vice, not virtue. It is impossible.”
The king still tried to make some conversation and get rid of this man as politely as possible. He did not want to offend this man. He said, “By virtuous deeds I mean that I have made many temples for Buddha, many shrines. I have made many ashrams for the Buddhist bhikkhus, sannyasins. I have arranged for thousands of scholars to translate Buddhist scriptures into Chinese. I have put millions and millions of rupees in the service of Gautam Buddha. What is going to be the result, the consequence, of all my virtue and of all my virtuous deeds? Millions of bhikkhus take food every day from the palace and all over the country. What is going to be the outcome of it?”
And Bodhidharma laughed. The king has never heard such laughter: a belly laughter that can shake mountains. He laughed and laughed and he said, “You are simply foolish. All your efforts have been a sheer waste. There is going to be no result out of it.
Don’t try, and don’t imagine that you are going to the seventh heaven, as other Buddhist bhikkhus must have been telling you. They have been exploiting you. This is their strategy to exploit foolish people like you. They exploit your greed for the other world. They give you great promises, and their promises cannot be proved wrong because nobody comes back from the other world to say whether those promises have been fulfilled or not. They are exploiters, they are parasites! You have been a victim. Nothing is going to happen out of this, which you think is very virtuous. In fact, you will fall in the seventh hell, because a man who lives with such wrong desires, who lives with desires, is going to fall into hell.”
The emperor tried to change the subject. He said, “Is there anything holy or not?”