PZI Teacher Archives
Emperor Wu asked the great teacher Bodhidharma, “What is the first principle of the holy teaching?”
Bodhidharma said, “Vast emptiness, nothing holy.”
“Who are you, standing here in front of me?” asked the Emperor.
“I don’t know,” said Bodhidharma.
The Emperor didn’t understand.
Bodhidharma crossed the river and went into the Kingdom of Wei.
Later, the Emperor asked Duke Zhi about this. The Duke said, “Your Majesty, do you know who that was?”
“I don’t know,” said the Emperor.
“That was the bodhisattva Guanyin, bringing the mind seal of the Buddha.”
The Emperor was filled with regret and wanted to send a messenger to ask Bodhidharma to come back.
The Duke said, “There’s no point, Your Majesty. Even if everyone in the country went after him, he wouldn’t return.”
—Blue Cliff Record Case 1, & Book of Serenity Case 2 (translation by John Tarrant & Joan Sutherland, titled: Bodhidharma, the Buddha-Heart Emperor, and the Magical Duke)
Have confidence: just go into the silence. The absolute is always there. Inside it all, there’s freedom. There’s no situation where infinity is not there.
Zenosaurus Curriculum 8: Most problems come from “knowing” things that might not be true. If we stop insisting on certainty we might feel anxiety at first, but then an exhilarating freedom might arrive.
Value a sort of play and see if you can break the koan—the koan will be amused. And see it and let it into your heart, and see what comes, or follow it around, or have it follow you. And finally you’ll realize, “Oh, I’m here. I’m free.”
Whatever your condition is, you can see the “I have joy.” Out of that emptiness, out of what seems unpromising—the dark material, the valley spirit, the enigma, out of the mystery, out of what I don’t understand—it just appears. The joy just appears.
So…tonight I want to talk a little bit about the course of the inner work — the dharma work — in terms of this book, the Book of Serenity. And you know, it pretty much is the second case is the one we’re going to mention, about Bodhidharma meets The Emperor Wu.