Hsuan Hua's Verse Says:
'White, horses came to Loyang bringing Sutras.
Bodhidharma faced the stone wall.
The Venerable, yen forgot his life for the Dharma.
Jwo bestows the teaching and he spills out the ideal in his bosom.
The Gu-poison has difficulty entering, so why spit it out?
Sweet dew pervasively nourishes and develops bright talent.
The Chin Mirror hangs on high, reflecting all categories of beings.
Flowers bloom on withered wood, and people sigh.
White horses came to Loyang bringing Sutras. In the Han Dynasty, at White Horse Monastery in Loyang, there were two Venerables, Kasyapamatanga and Dharmaraksha, who were Sages certified to the fruition. In the era of Emperor Ming of the Han Dynasty, they brought
The Sutra in Forty-two Sections to China. Because they were Indian, they were bullied by some Chinese people. On their own ground, the Chinese exercised their skill to bully the foreigners. Well, who was doing the bullying? They were people from the same walk of life. Or, perhaps they were not of the same walk of life, but were Taoists. Taoism was very popular then in China. The Taoists said Buddhism was a deviant teaching transmitted to China, and should not be believed.
Well, Emperor Ming of the Han Dynasty "dreamed of a golden person at night." In the night, he had a dream in which he saw a golden person in the West. Afterwards, he discussed the event with the court astronomer Chin Tyan Jyan, who said, "This omen probably refers to India, because the Buddha was born in India. This golden person probably was the Buddha." Later on, the two Venerables Kasyapamatanga and Dharmaraksha, riding white horses from India, came to China bearing
The Sutra in Forty-Two Sections. This was the first Buddhist Sutra transmitted to China. It is very short yet extremely important, and it was spoken by the Buddha. After this Sutra was transmitted to China, the Taoist religion jealously observed, "If the Emperor starts to believe in Buddhism, we Taoists will fall out of favor and be forgotten." That's why they kept speaking in this jealous and obstructive way, saying Buddhism was fake, and only Taoism was true. "If you don't believe it," they said, "we can hold a contest to test it out."
The Emperor asked, "How are we going to have a contest?"
The Taoists said, "Our Taoist scriptures can withstand the burning of fire. But the Buddhist scriptures definitely cannot take the fire." Why? Because the Taoists then thought they could perform some spells, or recite some mantras to hold back the fire, and keep it from burning up their scriptures. Maybe these old Taoists had some chemicals to sprinkle on the books to keep them from catching fire, so they were confident. That's why they wanted to set the scriptures of both religions on fire. The scripture that got burned would be the false, the one that didn't would be true.
They asked Venerable Kasyapamatanga and Venerable Dharmaraksha if they were willing to have a contest, and they said, "Fine." So they got ready, and put the Buddhist
Sutra in Forty-Two Sections together with the Taoist scriptures, and set them on fire.
Guess what? The blaze consumed all the Taoist scriptures, but could not burn the Buddhist Sutra. The old Taoists had a murderous thought, and wanted to kill the two Venerable Ones from India. The two Venerables raised their bodies up in the air--they simply leaped up into empty space, and manifested the Eighteen Transformations. What are the Eighteen Transformations? All Arhats possess these eighteen abilities: they can emit water from the upper body and fire from the lower body, or emit water from the lower body, and fire from the upper body. From one body, they can emit both water and fire, with neither one obstructing the other. This is just like
a snow flake in the red furnace. They could recline, sit or dance in mid-air, displaying all kinds of spiritual powers. Then the Taoists surrendered, and didn't dare contend anymore. Thus, it was possible for Buddhism to become established in China. So this is to explain, "White horses came to Loyang bringing Sutras." At that time, the Taoist religion forbid Buddhism from being transmitted to China. It's like when we first moved to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, and several dozen priests and ministers came here to drive out Buddhism, saying, "You are not allowed to propagate the Buddhadharma in this country. This country does not welcome Buddhism! If you want to preach the Buddhadharma, go to Russia to do it! They don't have any religion there. Our country is a Catholic and Protestant country. We don't welcome Buddhism." This is just what they were like. Ah! None of you realize how serious this is! It truly wasn't easy to establish the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Although we haven't had a contest of burning scriptures, it's still been very difficult.
Bodhidharma faced a stone wall. Bodhi means "enlightened" and Dharma means "law". "Bodhidharma" is Sanskrit, so his name should be translated as Dhyana Master "Enlightened to the Law." He faced a wall for nine years. For what reason? Because Emperor Wu of Lyang failed to see his point. The Emperor told him, "I have helped many monks, built numerous temples, and done so much for Buddhism. Tell me, do I have merit and virtue?"
Bodhidharma was too honest, and answered bluntly, "You have no merit and virtue."
Emperor Wu thought, "Oh? If I can take this, there's nothing I can't endure. I've done so many good deeds, yet you say I have no merit and virtue. Fine! I won't speak to you anymore." The conversation failed entirely, so Bodhidharma went to listen to Shen Gwang expound the Sutras.
Shen Gwang lectured the Sutras so well that heavenly flowers fell in profusion and golden lotuses welled up from the earth. Whenever he lectured, the heavens would send down flowers, and a lot of golden lotuses would come out of the earth. Getting such a tremendous response, he thought he was quite something! Bodhidharma knew that there were bound to be Buddhists where Shen Gwang was lecturing, for "birds of feather flock together." Bodhidharma listened to the lecture, and afterwards he asked, "Dharma Master, what were you doing just now?"
Hearing this, Shen Gwang thought furiously, "What is the logic behind this? You long-bearded Indian—don't you know that I'm lecturing the Sutra?"
He indignantly said, "I'm lecturing the Sutra!"
Bodhidharma asked, "What are you lecturing the Sutra for?"
Shen Gwang said, "I'm lecturing the Sutra to teach people to end birth and death."
Bodhidharma then said, "In the Sutra, the words are black and the paper is white. Do you really think that by lecturing about the black words and white paper, you can teach people to end birth and death?"
Shen Gwang had no reply to this, so he said, "You are slandering the Buddha and the Dharma this way. You are a real scoundrel, truly disgusting!" He took out the iron recitation beads he always carried. What were they for? He was ready to use them as a weapon to protect himself. Shen Gwang picked up his recitation beads, and whipped them right at Bodhidharma's face. Bodhidharma tried but failed to dodge the blow, for Shen Gwang had some skill in wielding the beads, and they knocked out two of his teeth.
As one who is certified to sagehood, Bodhidharma always based himself in compassion. Now, if his teeth fell to the ground, there would be a disaster in that place. What disaster? It would not rain for three years, as a sign that the good Dharma-protecting spirits had not fulfilled their duty of protection. In a three-year drought, who knows how many common people starve to death? Therefore, he swallowed his teeth. From this story comes the Chinese folk saying, "Swallow the knocked-out teeth."
Bodhidharma swallowed his teeth to avert a local drought, and then departed. Dharma Master Shen Gwang felt smug and satisfied. He thought, "You Indian monk, you came to disturb my Way-place, but now you know you shouldn't mess with me, and I've chased you away." He was delighted. But after Bodhidharma left, the Ghosts of Impermanence came and said, "Our boss wants to invite you to a party." Shen Gwang said, "Who's your boss? I don't know him!"
The Ghosts of Impermanence said, "You don't? Our boss is none other than King Yama! They're having a party, and would like you to go lecture the Sutras and speak the Dharma!"
When Shen Gwang heard the name King Yama, from reading the Sutras he knew that this wouldn't be a pleasant party, and the wine wouldn't be good either. He said, "What shall I do? Even though I lecture the Sutras so well that heavenly flowers rain down and golden lotuses well up from the earth--I still have to go see your boss?"
The Ghosts of Impermanence said, "Not only you, no one can avoid it. Everyone has to go see our boss."
Shen Gwang asked, "Is there anyone who doesn't have to go see him? Please introduce me to someone who doesn't need to see King Yama!"
(to be continued)