Huike said to Bodhidharma, “My mind is anxious. Please pacify it.”
Bodhidharma replied, “Bring me your mind, and I will pacify it.”
Huike said, “Although I’ve sought it, I cannot find it.”
“There,” Bodhidharma replied, “I have pacified your mind.”
Bodhidharma appeared in China in the 5th century.
It’s unclear where he came from, but it was probably India. He has been described as having blue eyes and a beard.
He has also been described as a barbarian. His Buddhist name is Bodhidharma and he is credited with bringing Ch’an Buddhism to China. He is also credited with creating the martial art that would come to be known as Kung Fu.
People told a lot of stories about him and was already famous when he arrived in China. It’s said that he spent nine years in a cave meditating and that he invented tea to help him stay awake during long meditations.
This is the story of Bodhidharma meeting the Emperor. Emperor Wu was a big supporter of Buddhism.
Emperor Wu: “How much merit have I gained for ordaining Buddhist monks, building monasteries, having sutras copied, and commissioning Buddha images?”
Bodhidharma: “None. Good deeds done with worldly intent bring good karma, but no merit.”
Emperor Wu: “So what is the highest meaning of noble truth?”
Bodhidharma: “There is no noble truth, there is only void.”
Emperor Wu: “Then, who is standing before me?”
Bodhidharma: “I know not, Your Majesty.”
This is how Bodhidharma taught. He challenged ideas and preconceptions.
His teaching was simple. He said we should focus on practice, rather than spending too much time giving faith and devotion to religious texts. The idea that Enlightenment is with us already comes from Bodhidharma.
He described Ch’an Buddhism as:
“A special transmission outside the scriptures,
Not founded upon words and letters;
By pointing directly to mind
It lets one see into [one’s own true] nature and attain Buddhahood.”
The practice he spread was simple sitting meditation. He said we should sit facing a wall, with our eyes open, and just follow the breath.
That’s it, straightforward and simple. Direct and right to the point.
Our true nature is always with us.
All that we need to do so find it is settle our minds.