The Blow Breaks Teeth;
He Swallows Them with the Blood
Patriarch Bodhidharma was caught unprepared
because he never expected that Dharma Master Shen Guang would hit him.
Although certified sages can penetrate others' thoughts, the Patriarch
did not reflect in advance on what the Dharma Master might do.
Although Patriarch Bodhidharma had some skill in the martial arts, he
was caught off guard. It never occurred to him that the monk would
make such a vicious attack, that being unable to reply, he would
resort to brute force. As a result, the blow broke off two of
Patriarch Bodhidharma's teeth.
What did Patriarch Bodhidharma do about the two
broken teeth? Well, he was a sage, and there's a legend
about the teeth of a patriarch--a certified sage--and what happens
if they get broken and he spits them out onto the ground. It's said
that if a sage's teeth are knocked loose and he spits them out on
the ground, it won't rain for three years.
thought, "Ai! If it doesn't rain for three years, just imagine how
many people will starve! I have come to China to save beings, not to
kill them!" And so Patriarch Bodhidharma did not let his teeth fall
to the ground. Instead, he swallowed them, just as if he were eating
a pancake. Well, pancakes aren't that hard--it was more like eating
a bone! He swallowed them and made his exit.
Therefore, in China, there is a saying that
came from that incident, "If someone knocks out the teeth of an
arhat, the arhat swallows them."