Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Bodhidharma 菩提達磨

Bodhidharma 菩提達磨, originally uploaded by shitao.

Bodhidharma faced a wall for nine years, not speaking for the entire time. He is said to have fallen asleep seven years into his nine years of wall-gazing, and becoming angry with himself, cut off his eyelids to prevent it from happening again. Legend has it that as his eyelids hit the floor the first tea plants sprang up; and thereafter tea would provide a stimulant to help keep students of Chán awake during meditation...

The Origin of Chan (Zen)—A Flower and a Smile 世尊拈花,迦葉微笑

One day on the Spiritual Mountain (a.k.a. Vulture Peak), an assembly gathered to hear the Buddha’s Dharma talk. However, on that occasion, Buddha simply held up a flower offered by the Brahma King and gazed at the assembly, without saying a word. No one understood the meaning except Mahakashyapa, who broke into a smile. Thereupon the Buddha said, “I have the true Eye of the Dharma, the profound Mind of Nirvana, the Reality transcending all forms; the supreme and subtle teaching, inexpressible by words and speech; this mind seal outside of scriptures, I now transmit to Mahakashyapa.” Mahakashyapa later became known as the first Patriarch of Zen.

This special teaching, the “mind seal”, the essence of Buddhism, may be characterized by these lines (教外別傳,不立文字,直指人心,見性成佛):

A special transmission outside the scriptures,

Not dependent upon words and speech;

Directly pointing at the mind,

See into one’s true nature and become a Buddha.

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