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)
What is the heart of any big question? We are swimming in a sea of uncertainty and the mind wants to fill in the blanks. Yet our questions are much smaller than what’s on offer, what’s possible as an answer—the whole universe might be doing something through me.
Zhuangzi said, “We wander in borderless vastness; Great Knowledge enters in, and we don’t know where it will ever end.” Dharma talk given by John Tarrant in a Sunday Zen session on February 26, 2023.
Yunmen said, “Before or after the full moon, every day is a good day!” The light of sesshin infuses us. In a “good day” the light is in you, just how it is—this is not an achievement, you are in the gift of the universe. The tenderness of the good day. Our whole lives opening to now. You can’t bully the Dao, it’s bigger than you! Not getting in the way of life. Also: Dreams, Linji’s death, and more. Video recorded in Winter Sesshin 2020.
John Tarrant speaks on undoing, unfinding, and unknowing as pathways to awakening, and exploring the mind’s often dubious reasons for the way things are.