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The Intention Patriarch Bodhidharma’s Coming from the West

When conditions in China were ripe, Master Bodhiharma went there.
The emperor failed to recognize him; his time had not yet arrived.
But Shen Guang knelt for nine years at Bear’s Ear Mountain
And became Hui Ke after the snow was stained by his severed arm.
The Master transmitted the mind seal of the Great Dharma
To him as the Second Patriarch, continuing the wise traditions.
Poisoned six times, the Master was never harmed in the least.
Carrying a single shoe, he returned to the West, never to be forgotten.


One Flower, Blooming with Five Petals

Originally I came to this land
To transmit Dharma and save deluded beings.
One flower, blooming with five petals,
Will bear fruit naturally.

I have often told you that when Patriarch Bodhidharma first went to China, he found it truly difficult to convert the Chinese people.

我本來茲土。 傳法度迷情。
一華開五葉。 結果自然成。

我常對你們講,達摩祖師到中國時,那真是啊! 很不容易教化中國人。

Patriarch Bodhidharma Comes from the West to China
達摩祖師 西來震旦

Bodhidharma (”Bodhi” meaning enlightened and “Dharma” meaning the teachings) was the Twenty-Eighth Patriarch in India. Why didn’t he stay in India and be a Patriarch there? Why did he go to China? Well, previously Shakyamuni Buddha made a prediction that from the Twenty-eighth Patriarch on, the Great Vehicle teaching should go to China.
Thus it happened that Patriarch Bodhidharma sailed from India to China.


Buddhism Seems to be in China, Yet it Really is Not
中國佛法 似有似無

At that time, the Buddhadharma seemed to exist in China, but it really did not. It was as if it were and yet weren’t there. That is because the work being done was superficial. There were few who recited Sutras, investigated the Sutras, and virtually no one bowed repentance ceremonies. Ordinary scholars regarded Buddhism as a field of study and engaged in debates and discussions about it.
But the principles in the Sutras should be cultivated! However, nobody was cultivating. Why not? People were afraid of suffering. No one truly meditated. Well, there was Venerable Patriarch Zhi, who practiced meditation and attained the Five Eyes. But most people feared suffering and didn’t cultivate. No one seriously investigated Chan and sat in meditation, just like you people now who sit in meditation for a while until your legs begin to hurt. When their legs began to ache, they would wince and fidget and then gently unbend and rub them. People are just people and everyone avoids suffering as much as possible. That’s the way it was then; that’s the way it is now. That’s called Buddhadharma seeming to be there but not really being there.


When the Disciples First Came, They Met with Difficulty
徒弟先來 處處碰壁

Before Patriarch Bodhidharma himself went to China, he sent two of his disciples there first. Who would have thought that when they got to China they would be totally ostracized and bullied? Those two disciples, named Fo Tuo and Ye She, were Indians who went to China to transmit the Sudden Teaching Dharma Door of the Chan School that advocates seeing the nature and becoming a Buddha, and which does not abide in language.
At that time in China another Indian monk named Bodhiruchi was aware that these two monks had also come from India to explain the Chan School. Chan belongs to the Great Vehicle Teaching, but Bodhiruchi explained the Tripitaka Teaching, which belongs to the Small Vehicle. For that reason, Bodhiruchi got all other monks to join together to ostricize these two Indian monks. No matter what they said, no one would listen. No matter what they went, everyone ignored them. Deciding that the situation was meaningless, they left. That is how these two disciples of Patriarch Bodhidharma came to leave the western capital of Changan.


The Hand Makes a Fist; The Fist Makes a Hand
手做拳頭 拳頭做手

On their way out they passed by Lu Mountain where they met the Great Master Zhiyuan (Huiyuan), who promoted the practice of reciting the Buddha’s name. He himself recited the Buddha’s name all the time. Well, they went to pay their respects to Great Master Yuan. Venerable Yuan said to them, “What Dharma do you two monks from India transmit that causes people to pay you so little respect?”
Go Tuo and Ye She both extended their hands. They probably knew very little Chinese. Extending their hands, they said, “The hand makes a fist, and the fist makes a hand. Isn’t that fast?”
Master Yuan replied, “Very fast!”
“Bodhi and affliction,” they said, “are just that fast!”
At that moment, Great Master Yuan became enlightened and said, “Ah! Bodhi and affliction basically are not different! Bodhi is affliction and affliction is Bodhi.” Having gained such an understanding, Great Master Yuan made abundant offerings to Fo Tuo and Ye She. Shortly thereafter m, the two died on the same day, in the same place. Their graves may still be seen at Lu Mountain.
Back in India, when Patriarch Bodhidharma learned that his two disciples had been scorned and had both died, he thought, “ I will go there myself to have a look.” Thereupon he went to China.
Patriarch Bodhidharma saw that the roots of the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma were ripe in China and knew that he should take the Great Vehicle Dharma there. Fearing neither the distance nor the hardship of travel, he took the Dharma there. What do you suppose it was like when he arrived in China?


Arriving First at Guangzhou, He is Feared by All who See Him
初到廣州 人見畏之

Patriarch Bodhidharma went to Guangzhou first. When children there saw such a dark and bearded Indian, they surrounded him as if he were performing a street show. At that time the Chinese people were rather snobbish toward foreigners. They called Indians “Mo Luo Cha” (meaning devil, or devilish ghost). The Patriarch became Monk Mo Luo Cha. They even composed. Rhyme that they chanted, “Devil! Devil! Skin you, I will.” They wanted to skin him alive! See how Patriarch Bodhidharma was ridiculed and insulted?
However, Patriarch Bodhidharma could not understand what they were saying because he did not know Chinese. He didn’t speak their language and couldn’t communicate verbally with them. He wanted to befriend the children in that place, but as soon as they saw Patriarch Bodhidharma, they went crazy and scattered in all directions. They dared not to be near this Mo Luo Cha. Why? They were afraid of his long beard.

達摩祖師先到廣州。廣州這些個小孩子,見到鬍子這麼邋遢的一個印度人,大家就好像看熱鬧似地圍著他。 當時的中國人看不起外國人,叫印度人「摩羅剎」, 說這是摩羅剎! 我把你皮扒。」 要扒他的皮,你看! 就這麽罵達摩祖師。
達摩祖師也不知他們說什麼,因為不會中國話; 話也聽不懂,語言也不通, 來到這兒想要和這些小孩子親近親近,嗐! 這些小孩子,一見達摩祖師,就發狂似地各處跑, 不敢接近這個摩羅剎。為什麼?看他那麽長的鬍子,就很害怕。

Being Insulted Left and Right, He Finds Both Adults and Children Different to Convert
受盡毀辱 難度老少

When the adults saw that children ran away from him, they suspected this Indian was a kidnapped. So they bid their children to stay away from the Patriarch. He could not even convert children; how could he convert the grown-ups? No one dared to get close to him. That was the situation in Guangzhou; no one recognized that he was a Patriarch. Consequently, he did not stay long in Guangzhou and moved on to Nanjing. While traveling on foot, he was also greeted by many children who yelled, “Ah! An Indian !” And threw clods of dirt at him.

大人呢?一看小孩子跑了, 就以為這個印度人是來爪小孩子的, 所以就更不讓小孩子接近他了。你看!不要說是度大人,他連小孩子都度不到,沒有人敢接近他。到廣州是這樣,沒有什麼人認識這是一位祖師,所以在廣州也沒怎麼停留,就到了南京。這一路走到南京,沿途也有小孩子說:「哦!是個印度人!」就拿土塊打他。

Emperor Wu of Liang Boasts of His Own Merit and Virtue
梁王武帝 炫示功德

When Patriarch Bodhidharma first arrived in Nanjing from Guangzhou, he went to convert Emperor Wu. Emperor Wu asked him, “In my whole life, I have built many temples, helped many people to leave the home-life, provided the needy with money from the national treasury, and also made vegetarian meal offerings to the Sangha. What merit and virtue have I created?” At that time, whoever left the home-life would be treated well by the Emperor, with everything including food, dwelling, and clothing provided for. As long as you were a left home person, the emperor would make offerings to you, pay reverence to you, and bow to you.
Emperor Wu was the kind of person who wanted to be number one in everything. That was why when he met Patriarch Bodhidharma, he didn’t seek Dharma from him. Instead he was totally engrossed in how to win praise from the Patriarch. He wanted to inflate his ego. Concerned that the Patriarch might not know of the good deeds that he had done, such as building temples, converting monks, practicing giving, and making vegetarian meal offerings, he went ahead and pointed them out as he introduced himself to the Patriarch. He said, “You see, I have built hundreds of temples. This one and that one all house many monks whom I helped to leave the home-life. The amount of giving I have done is not small and the number of monks I have provided for is not small. How much merit and virtue would you say I’ve amassed?” Basically, he was providing his own promotion campaign. He was saying, “Look at me! I am different from other emperors. I specialize in doing good deeds, creating merit and virtue. How much merit and virtue would you say I have?” He did not want to seek the Dharma for ending birth and death; instead, he wanted to boast of his own merit and virtue first.

梁武帝這個人,什麼都要第一的,所以一見達摩祖師,也不求法,儘想要達摩祖師來讚歎他一下,來給他戴幾頂高帽子。他怕達摩祖師不知道他造寺、度僧、布施、設齋的功德,不知道他這些好處,於是就自我介紹:「你看我,造了幾百處廟,又有這個廟,又有那個廟,所有的廟裏都住了很多和尚,這些和尚都是我一手成就他們出家的。我又做了多少布施,供養多少僧,你說我這功德怎麼樣啊?」這個意思就是自我介紹,自己說:「噢!你看我,我這個皇帝和其他皇帝是不一樣的;我這個皇帝是專門做好事的,做功德的。你說我有什麼功德呢?」 他這不是想要求法了生死,是先要炫示炫示自己的功德。

Actually He Had No Merit and Virtue at All
說有功德 實無功德

Patriarch Bodhidhatma listened to Emperoe Wu of Liang praising himself as if drunk on his own ego, introducing himself, boasting of his merit and virtue, advertising for himself, calling attention to his own points, and generally lauding himself. Most people, upon hearing the Emperor’s comments, would have said, “Ah! Of course you have merit and virtue! You have tremendous merit virtue! Your merit and virtue is out of this world!” That would be most people’s response. Now I ask you, would a sage ever say things just to flatter someone? But Bodhidharma was a patriarch. How could he possibly flatter and fawn? And so he replied, “Actually you have no merit and virtue. In truth, no merit and virtue at all.”
Patriarch Bodhidharma originally had gone there with the idea of saving Emperor Wu of Liang. However, Emperor Wu was too conceited; he had too high an opinion of himself. Being an emperor was already something, he thought. He had built many temples, enabled many people to leave home, given away a lot of money, and made a lot of offerings to the Triple Jewel. So, he thought he had created a tremendous amount of merit and virtue. Patriarch Bodhidharma, wanting to shatter the Emperor’s attachment, said that he had no merit and virtue at all.


Meeting Face-to-Face, He Misses his Chance, Failing to Recognize the Patriarch
當面錯過 不識祖師

For the Patriarch to say he had no merit and virtue was one thing, but for Emperor Wu of Liang to hear that was another, for it made him quite unhappy. From then on, the Emperor ignored Patriarch Bodhidharma. No matter what Dharma the Patriarch spike, the Emperor refused to listen. “Why should I listen to you?” Emperor Wu’s karmic obstacles were too heavy. Although Patriarch Bodhidharma came from India to become the First Patriarch of China, Emperor Wu of Liang failed to recognize him. He was face-to-faces and missed his chance. The Chinese people have a saying, “ Coming face-to-face, one fails to recognize the Bodhisattva Who Contemplates the Sounds of the World.” Emperor Wu of Liang was face-to-face and failed to recognize the One Who Intentionally Came from the West. He did not recognize the Patriarch who came from the West.
Why did Patriarch Bodhidharma want to save him? He knew that the Emperor was going to encounter some difficulty, so he wanted to help the Emperor awaken. Had Emperor Wu been able to leave home and cultivate, or to yield his throne to someone else, he could have avoided the fate of starving to death.


Causes and Conditions from a Previous Life: He Starved a Monkey

Emperor Wu originally had deep faith in the Buddhadharma. During his time, Buddhism flourished in China. Using his power as an emperor, he built temples, everywhere and promoted Buddhism. Consequently, many people came to believe in the Buddhadharma.
However, he had also created very heavy karma in a past life. What kind of a truck person had Emperor Wu been in the past? He had been a Bhikshu, a Buddhist monk. While that monk cultivated up in the mountains, a monkey would come every day to steal the things he planted for food and to steal the fruit from the nearby trees, such as peaches, apples, and the lime. The monkey stole and ate all the fruit and most of the vegetables the monk planted. Finally one day the monk managed to trap the monkey in a cave and blocked the entrance of the cave with rocks. Basically he planned to keep the monkey in there for a couple of days and then let it out, in order to teach the monkey a lesson so that it wouldn’t steal his food anymore. Who would have guessed that after blocking up the cave he would forget about it, thus causing that monkey to die of hunger!


Receiving Retribution in This Life, He Starves to Death in the Palace

In this life, he was an emperor, and the monkey was reborn to be Hou Jing. Hou Jing led soldiers to attack Nanjing. After Nanjing was taken, he kept Emperor Wu in captivity in the palace and did not provide him with any food. He took all food away, and left the Emperor there to starve to death. In a previous life, the Emperor starved the monkey to death, and in this life the monkey starved him to death. He had to undergo that retribution.
Now before that happened, Patriarch Bodhidharma saw that the Emperor had done so many good deeds that he could have redeemed his offense with the merit and virtue created. However, to do so there must be some conditions. That’s why the Patriarch was not polite to him. But the Emperor thought to himself, “ I am an emperor, a great emperor, and you are only a poor monk. You come to my country and are utterly rude to me.” So he alienated himself from the Patriarch. Though Patriarch Bodhidharma wanted to save him and brought forth a compassionate mind toward him, the Emperor could not accept him. Because the Emperor made no move to seek help from the Patriarch, there was nothing the Patriarch could do to help him. Thus, the Patriarch left and paid no more attention to the Emperor. What happened as a result was that after a period of time, Emperor Wu was captured and starved to death in the palace by Hou Jing and his people. Such was the cause and effect. You all think about it. If the Emperor actually had merit and virtue, how could he have starved to death? It was because he did not have merit and virtue that he died of hunger. Patriarch Bodhidharma wanted to save him from his fate by helping him reach an awakening. What a pity that Emperor Wu of Liang’s ego was so big that even Patriarch Bodhidharma could not save him.


The Heavens Rain Down Flowers; Golden Lotuses Well Forth from the Earth

While still in Nanjing, after he left the imperial court, Patriarch Bodhidharma met the Venerable Shen Guang (Spiritual Light), who was lecturing on the Sutras. When Dharma Master Shen Guang explained the Sutras, the heavens rained down flowers, and golden lotuses welled forth from the earth. Heavenly maidens scattered blossoms, and from beneath the earth golden lotuses burst forth. Ah! What a supreme state!
The Patriarch heard about that, and so he also went to observe the Dharma assembly and listen to the Sutra lecture. By then he probably had learned some Chinese and could speak a few sentences. If on the road from Guangzhou to Nanjing, he learned one sentence a day, he would have learned ten sentences in ten days, and a hundred in a hundred days. That Patriarch was very intelligent; he did not have to study to learn Chinese, he just listened.
In Nanjing, he listened to Dharma Master Shen Guang explain a Sutra. Dharma Master Shen Guang was quite pleased by that. “ Hah! See how well I lecture the Sutras? Even an Indian has come to listen! Ah! He came from so far away to listen to my lecture. How truly inconceivable!” He felt quite good about it.


The Patriarch Asks Him, “Why Are You Explaining Sutras?”

After he finished his Sutra lecture, he was surprised when the Indian began to question him. The Patriarch asked, “Dharma Master, what are you doing?” Dharma Master Shen Guang replied, “ I am lecturing on the Sutras. You don’t even know that? I thought you came to listen to the explanation of the Sutra, but it turns out you don’t even know what a Sutra lecture is all about!”
Patriarch Bodhidharma asked, “ Hmm. What are you doing when you lecture on the Sutras? Why explain Sutras?”


“To Find a Buddha,     You have to See your Nature.    Whoever Sees his Nature is a Buddha.”


Bodhidharma’s Bloodstream Sermon / 《達磨大師血脈論》
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