I cannot conceive of what happened to him why he could not say directly, “These words are not true. They are not true because they don’t resonate with my being.” But this is what happens when you are toeing the line of a certain party – political, religious, social. Then you have to be in agreement with everything, without choice.
The Buddhists were very happy with Bodhidharma because he established the discipline of Buddha in China, gave it a very solid foundation, and spread the message – not only to China, but from China to Taiwan, to Korea, to Japan.
He did a great job, but he fell down from the heights. He could have remained there if he had said the truth exactly and explained to the people, in a very simple way, “These are statements made by Buddha before his enlightenment, and anything he said before enlightenment is immaterial. To me, Buddha’s statements after his enlightenment are pure gold.”
I don’t think Bodhidharma would have hurt the feelings of people. Perhaps he would have created a precedent for other enlightened people: You need not agree with everything. You have certainly an obligation to accept the truth from whichever direction it comes, but you don’t have any obligation to agree with any untruth, any fiction created by the priests who know nothing of the truth.
He did the job for which he was sent, but he lost something beautiful in his own being. To me that is more important than the whole of China becoming Buddhist. A single individual in crystal-clear truthfulness is more important than millions of people fast asleep.