The Sixth Patriarch
In his great anger
Dharma Master Shen Kuang had knocked out two of Bodhidharma’s teeth.
Afterward he supposed he had won a great victory because the
Barbarian put forth no opposition. Not long after the incident,
however, the Ghost of Impermanence, garbed in a high hat, arrived
and addressed the Master:
"Today your life ends. King Yama has sent me to escort you."
When Dharma Master
Shen Kuang heard this he said, "What? Must I die? When I speak
Dharma, flowers fall from the heavens and the earth bubbles forth
golden lotuses, yet have I still not ended birth and death? Tell me,
is there even one man who has exhausted birth and death?"
"There is," came the reply.
"Who?" asked Shen Kuang, "Tell me, and I’ll follow him and study the method."
"He is that black-faced Bhiksu who’s teeth you just knocked out."
"That’s right." said
the Ghost," King Yama can’t bother him. In fact, he bows to that Bhiksu every day."
"Please Old Ghost,
speak to King Yama on my behalf. I want to follow that
Bhiksu. Can’t you allow me some more time?"
"Alright," replied the Ghost, "Since you are sincere, I’ll wait a little longer."
When Dharma Master
Shen Kuang heard this, he was delighted. He rushed after Bodhidharma,
who was far ahead of him. He was so happy that he forgot to thank
the Ghost of Impermanence; in fact, he even forgot to put on his
shoes. He chased along the road until he met the parrot whom
Bodhidharma had helped obtain freedom, and with a flash understood, "Oh! Originally it’s just this way. I need only act dead, need only
be a living dead person."
to walk on, ignoring the barefoot Dharma Master following behind
him. When he came to Bear’s Ear Mountain in Lo Yang Province, the
Patriarch sat down to meditate facing a wall. Close by Dharma Master Shen Kuang knelt seeking
Dharma. For nine years while Patriarch Bodhidharma sat in meditation, Dharma Master Shen Kuang knelt.
Earlier, when I spoke
this public record, an eleven year old child asked me, "During the
nine years he knelt, did he eat or not?" I replied, "How could
anyone kneel for nine years without eating and still live? When the
Patriarch ate, Dharma Master Shen Kuang also ate. When Bodhidharma
meditated, Shen Kuang knelt." But this is not recorded in the books.
While the Patriarch was sitting for nine years facing the wall, many
people came to bow to him as their teacher and were received as
One day a great snow
fell. Although the snow rose in drifts as high as his waist, Dharma
Master Shen Kuang continued to kneel, seeking Dharma. Finally
Patriarch Bodhidharma turned around and asked: "With such a great
snowfall, why are you still kneeling here?"
"I want to end birth
and death," replied Shen Kuang. "When I was lecturing Sutras I was
unsuccessful. Please, Patriarch, transmit this Dharma to me."
"As you look at the sky, what do you see falling?"
"Snow," said Shen Kuang.
"What color is it?" asked Bodhidharma.
"Snow is white, of course."
"Wait until the
heavens spill forth red snow," said Bodhidharma, "then I’ll transmit
the Dharma to you. Without red snow, you have no hope, you evil Bhiksu, you knocked
out two of my teeth. I have been most compassionate in not demanding
retribution. Now can you also expect me to give you the Dharma?"
This was the test Patriarch Bodhidharma presented to Dharma Master Shen Kuang.
The topic introduced,
Dharma Master Shen Kuang neatly completed the test. How? Many
Bhiksus carry a knife which is used to protect and maintain the
precept body. In a situation where breaking the precepts is
unavoidable, a true cultivator would rather cut off his head than
lose the precept substance.
Dharma Master Shen
Kuang drew out his precept knife, and with one slice cut off an arm,
thereby satisfactorily completing the topic of the test. The blood
spewed all over, coloring the new fallen snow. He took a bucket and
filled it with crimson snow. Dumping it before Bodhidharma, he said, "Patriarch! Do you see? The snow is red!"
The Great Master
looked and said, "Yes, that’s red snow, alright." Originally
Patriarch Bodhidharma had wanted to test Dharma Master Shen Kuang’s
sincerity. Now the Patriarch was extremely happy. "My coming to
China has not been in vain! I have met with one who dares use a true
mind to cultivate the way, who even forsakes his arm in search of Dharma."
The Patriarch then spoke the Dharma door of using the mind to
seal the mind, pointing straight to man’s mind to see the nature and realize Buddhahood.
While hearing this Dharma, Shen Kuang didn’t think about his
arm, and before that he had merely thought of the best way to redden
the snow. Afterwards, however, when he produced a discriminating
mind and thought, "Oh, my arm really hurts," he felt pain. He then
said to Patriarch Bodhidharma, "My mind is in pain. Please Patriarch, quiet my mind."
"Find your mind." said
Bodhidharma. "Give it to me, and then I will quiet it and you will feel no pain."
Dharma Master Shen
Kuang searched himself, looking north, south, east, west, up and
down, but couldn’t find his mind. After looking everywhere he said
to Bodhidharma, "I can’t find it. My mind is nowhere to be found!"
"That is how well I
have quieted your mind." said the Patriarch. Hearing this
instruction the Great Master Shen Kuang understood the meaning of
transmitting the Dharma. This is a wonderful, unspeakable principle.
"Ten thousand Dharmas return to one; to what does the ‘one’ return?
Shen Kuang’s "Spiritual Light" wasn’t clear; he followed after ‘Dharma’,
Before him at Bear’s Ear Mountain he knelt nine years,
Only to seek some Dharma and avoid King Yama."
With the transmission
of the Dharma, Shen Kuang received a new name. It was Hui K’o, "Able
Wisdom," meaning that his wisdom was sufficient.
Master Hui K’o asked
the Patriarch, "In India, did you transmit the Dharma
to your disciples? At that time did you also give the bowl and robe as certification?"
"In India," replied
Bodhidharma, "I also transmitted the Dharma, but I didn’t need to
use this bowl and robe as a token of certification. The minds of
Indian people are very straight. When they cultivate the way and
attain the fruit, they know that they must become certified. If
there is no one to certify them, they don’t say, ‘I have attained
the Way. I have given proof to the fruit of Arhatship. I am a
Bodhisattva!’ They don’t speak like this.
however, are not this way. In China, sentient beings with the great
vehicle root nature are many, but people who lie are also many.
There are those who cultivate without success who nevertheless claim
to have realized the way. Therefore it is necessary to use this bowl
and robe to certify that you have received the Dharma transmission.
Guard them well and take care."
While the Patriarch
Bodhidharma was in China, he was poisoned six times. Who poisoned
him? Dharma Master P’u T’i Liu Chih and Vinaya Master Kuang T’ung of
Northern Wei, who were very jealous, prepared a vegetarian meal
which contained an invariably fatal drug, making an offering of it
to the Patriarch. Although Bodhidharma knew that this food had been
poisoned, he ate it. He then called for a tray onto which he vomited
the poisonous food, which transformed before him into a pile of
unsuccessful attempt, P’u T’i Liu Chih tried a second time, using an
even more potent poison. Again, Bodhidharma ate it. When he had
eaten his fill, he sat atop a huge boulder and spat out the poison.
The boulder at once crumbled into a heap of dust. In four more
attempts, jealous people tried without success to poison the
One day, Bodhidharma
said to the Great Master Hui K’o. "I came to China because I saw
people here with the great vehicle root nature. Now that I have
transmitted the Dharma, I am ready to die." After his death, the
Patriarch’s body was placed in a coffin and lowered into the grave.
There was nothing unusual about his burial. In Northern Wei,
however, an official called Sung Yun, "Comfortable Clouds,"
encountered the Patriarch on the road at Chung Nan Mountain in
Ts’ung Ling. When they met, Bodhidharma was carrying one shoe in his
hand. He said to the official, "The King of your country died today.
Return quickly! There is work to be done."
The official asked, "Great Master, where are you going?"
"Back to India," the Master replied.
"Venerable One, to whom did you transmit your Dharma?"
"In China, after forty years, it will be K’o’ (Able)."
Official Sung Yun
returned to his country and reported this incident: "Recently in
Ts’ung Ling I met the Patriarch Bodhidharma on the road. He told me
that the King of our country had died. He
instructed me to return to the capital to help. When I arrived I
found it exactly as he said. How did he know?"
scoffed, "Bodhidharma is already dead! How could you have met him on
the road?" Doubting, they rushed to the grave of the Patriarch and
dug up his coffin. When they opened it up, they found it empty, with
nothing inside but one shoe.
Where did Bodhidharma
go? No one knows. Perhaps he came to America. Wherever he wanders,
no one is able to recognize him. He can change and transform
according to his convenience. When he came to China, he said he was
one hundred and fifty years old; and when he left, he was still one
hundred and fifty years old. No historical reference can be found.
When Bodhidharma was
about to enter Nirvana he said, "I came to China and transmitted my
Dharma to three people. One received my marrow, one my bones, and
one got my flesh." After the transmission, the Patriarch himself no
longer had a body. When it was divided up, Great Master Hui K’o
received the marrow of Bodhidharma and Ch’an Master Tao Yu got the
Tao Chi, a Bhiksuni who was also called Tsung Ch’ih,
was able to recite from memory The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower
Sutra. After she died, a green lotus
flower grew from her mouth. It was she who received Bodhidharma’s
flesh. In the end, the Patriarch didn’t have a body at all. So don’t
look for him in America; you won’t find him.