While Patriarch Bodhidharma was in China, he was poisoned six times. Who poisoned him? During the Northern Wei Dynasty a Dharma Master named Bodhiruci was extremely jealous of the Patriarch. He prepared some vegetables and brought them as an offering to Patriarch Bodhidharma; but he placed a lethal poison in the food. That's the kind of offering he made! Did Patriarch Bodhidharma know the food was poisoned? He knew! He knew, but he ate it anyway. Then he told someone to bring him a platter. He spit on the platter and what do you suppose his spit turned into? The poison turned into snakes. That was the first time.
Well, Bodhiruci couldn't figure out why Patriarch Bodhidharma hadn't died from the poisoning. And so he tried again. He doubled the dose. Last time he'd failed to poison him; this time he would add more poison. Somehow he got the lethal food to the Patriarch and once again, the Patriarch ate it. That time after he'd eaten it, he sat on a large rock and vomited up the poison. The strength of the vomited poison shattered the rock. That was the second time.
After that there was a third time, a fourth time, a fifth time and a sixth time. He consumed poison six times. Patriarch Bodhidharma said to Dharma Master Shenguang, "I came to China because there are people with the propensity for the Great Vehicle here--living beings with faculties that can accept the Great Vehicle. That's why I brought Great Vehicle Buddhism to China. Now I've already transmitted that Dharma to someone. Now that I've passed on my Dharma, I won't stay here any longer. I am going to die."
Patriarch Bodhidharma did die and people put his body in a coffin and buried it. That was the end of that. But at that time an official named Songyun from the Wei Dynasty met Patriarch Bodhidharma on the road as he was traveling in the area of Hanling, in the Zhongnan Mountain range. Patriarch Bodhidharma, who was carrying one shoe in his hand, said to Songyun: "The king of your country died today. You should quickly return; there are things happening in your country."
Songyun asked, "Great Master, where are you going?"
Patriarch Bodhidharma said, "I'm returning to India."
Songyun asked, "Great Master, to whom did you transmit your Dharma?"
Patriarch Bodhidharma said, "Forty years later in China it will be the one who is Able." My Dharma will be with Able in China after forty years. "Able" refers to Huike— "Able Wisdom."
Songyun returned to his country in the Northern Wei and related that event, "That day I went to Hanling along the Zhongnan Mountains, I met Bodhidharma and he said he was headed for India. He also told me that the king of my country had died. When I arrived back here, I found out that it happened on that very day. How could he have known?"
The people who heard his report replied, "Bodhidharma died quite a while ago. How could you have seen him?" And people doubted what Songyun said. "He was already dead, how could you have encountered him? We'll open his grave and see." Well, they did, and when the coffin was opened, the only thing they found inside was one shoe.
Ultimately, where did Patriarch Bodhidharma go? No one ever knew. Perhaps he's now in America. But no one would be able to recognize him; he can disguise himself with myriads of transformations. When he went to China, suppose he was 150 years old. Well, when he left China he was still 150 years old. And where did he go? Nobody knows. You might want to look it up in the historical accounts, but you won't find any historical account of this.