PZI Teacher Archives

Emperor Wu Questions Bodhidharma (BCR1)(BS2)

KOAN:

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)

Video November 14, 2023
60' 4"
Audio November 14, 2023
60' 5"

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Dharma Theme August 1, 2023
51 Words
Video April 1, 2023

Everywhere! It’s Everywhere You Look

John Tarrant

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.

63' 4"
Audio March 13, 2023

Everywhere – It’s Everywhere You Look

John Tarrant

“Feeling the time,” is a line from the poet Du Fu—the time is always with us. And it’s always too early to despair. We’re just here. Not wanting anything to be different. Objections are full of knowing! You step out of the way you are perceiving the world, the dream of who you are, you turn the light backward. Recorded February 26, 2023.

63' 5"
Audio October 27, 2022

Fall Sesshin 2022: Dahui’s Journey, Bodhidharma’s Response, & the Marvelous Duke

John Tarrant

Sesshin is an embrace which allows greater freedom to appear, and it is deeply mysterious. We don’t do it for a particular outcome or we would be constraining ourselves. We are free and easy wandering. In the koan, Emperor Wu wants a method and a first principle of the holy teaching. Bodhidharma answers, There isn’t a principle! You can’t confine it. Chan is trusting uncertainty, it is not something to be believed. Vows from Amanda Boughton, closing words from Tess Beasley. Complete session recorded on October 7, 2022.

72' 59"
Audio August 7, 2021

Bodhidharma Comes & Goes

Jon Joseph

Why did Bodhidharma come from the West, and return to the East? Why are we born, and why do we die? Emperor Wu regretted his interview, but no one could bring Bodhidharma back. We all come and go. Jon’s talk, meditations, and student comments & stories. As recorded August 2, 2021.

62' 5"
Audio October 12, 2020

Fall Sesshin 2020: Not for Anything Else – Morning Talk with Allison Atwill

Allison Atwill

Allison Atwill asks, What is “my” first principle? A question that does not need an answer but furthers our chasing about! The emperor in us asks this again and again. But, like Huangbo, we have come “not for anything else!”—just this perfect life. As recorded October 3, 2020.

147' 33"
Text October 8, 2020

8 I Don’t Know – The Zenosaurus Course in Koans

John Tarrant

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.

1706 Words
Text August 14, 2020

Spirit of Love, Joy & Play in Koans

John Tarrant

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.”

5545 Words
Text August 6, 2020
3034 Words
Audio July 21, 2020

Green Glade: Held by Emptiness

John Tarrant

Green Glade of Meditation: There is a framework in our practice for relying on emptiness and freedom, not holding pre-set views. Blessing things beyond approval and disapproval. I am you = emptiness. In Zen we shift to “before” the demons grabbed our ankles. You can’t rely on what you believe. We accord with the Dao, we can’t fall out of the dream. PZI Zen online, as recorded July 19, 2020.

94' 45"
Text May 8, 2020

No Rank! – Or the Wild Path of Awakening

John Tarrant

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.

5769 Words
Video February 19, 2020

Every Day Is a Good Day

John Tarrant

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.

50' 7"
Audio February 12, 2020

Every Day Is a Good Day!

John Tarrant

The whole thing about Chan is that it’s an improvisational culture. Because we love it? No, because that’s what life is! That’s the good day. Not-knowing is intimately tied to the good day. It’s not an achievement—it’s the gift of the universe, and you are in the universe having received the gift. Poetry, dreams, Linji’s death, and more. As recorded in Winter Sesshin 2020.

50' 7"
Audio November 16, 2019

No Rank! – or the Wild Path of Awakening

John Tarrant

John Tarrant takes us on an ancestral tour of the wild path of Chan awakening through the stories in the 100 koans of the Book of Serenity

48' 58"
Audio November 16, 2019

Bodhidharma’s Response to Emperor Wu

David Weinstein

David Weinstein examines Emperor Wu’s exchange with Bodhidharma. His question: “What is the first principle of teaching? Vast emptiness, nothing holy.” The Emperor wants to be acknowledged, but….

57' 42"
Video February 3, 2019
34' 10"
Video October 14, 2011

Undoing, Unfinding, and Unknowing as Paths to Awakening

John Tarrant

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.

16' 25"