Kneeling for Nine Years,
He Seeks the Dharma for Ending Birth and Death
During the nine years he knelt there, Dharma
Master Shen Guang's skill was almost perfected, but not quite. One
year, it snowed very heavily on Bear's Ear Mountain. Outside, the snow
was deep. Patriarch Bodhidharma sat meditating and as Dharma Master
Shen Guang knelt there, he became buried in snow up to his waist.
Imagine that! The snow must have been at least two to three feet deep,
yet Dharma Master Shen Guang continued to kneel there seeking the
At about lunch time, Patriarch
Bodhidharma got up from where he had been facing the wall meditating and saw
that the Dharma Master was still kneeling. He said, "What are you
doing here, acting like that? It's snowing so hard. Why are you
still kneeling there?"
Dharma Master Shen Guang replied, "I am
seeking the Dharma! I am seeking the Way! Please, Patriarch, be
compassionate and transmit to me the method for avoiding King Yama.
Before, I lectured on the Sutras, but could not end my own birth and
death. Now I want to end birth and death. Please, Patriarch,
transmit the Dharma for ending birth and death to me."
Patriarch Bodhidharma thought for a while and
said, "Now you are kneeling here pleading with me to teach you the
Dharma for escaping King Yama. But do you remember the time when I
asked you a question and you responded by breaking off two of my
teeth with your recitation beads? Do you remember that time?" Then,
he asked, "Is it snowing?"
Dharma Master Shen Guang said, "Yes, it is
snowing. I am buried in snow up to my waist."
Patriarch Bodhidharma asked, "What color is
Dharma Master Shen Guang said, "Snow is white,
of course. Everyone knows that snow is white. I am not the only one
who says so."
Then Patriarch Bodhidharma gave him a problem
to solve. He assigned him his test question. He said, "Fine. You see
that the snow falling from the sky is white. When red snow falls
from the sky, I will transmit the Dharma to you. I will teach you
how to end birth and death and escape from King Yama. If no red snow
falls, you are out of luck. What a vicious monk you are to have
knocked out two of my teeth with your recitation beads! I have
already been most compassionate by not seeking revenge; how could I
possibly transmit the Dharma to you!"
You all think about it: wouldn't solving that
problem have been like trying to find a hair on a monk's head? In
other words, wasn't it impossible? Monks are bald; there would be no
hair to be found, right? But Patriarch Bodhidharma was searching for
a hair on a monk's head. He said, "Whenever you see red snow
falling, then I will transmit the Dharma to you." That was the test
question he gave to Dharma Master Shen Guang to answer.