Kneeling for Nine Years, He Seeks the Dharma for Ending Birth and Death
During the nine years he knelt there, Dharma Master Shen Guang's skill was almost perfected, but not quite. One year, it snowed very heavily on Bear's Ear Mountain. Outside, the snow was deep. Patriarch Bodhidharma sat meditating and as Dharma Master Shen Guang knelt there, he became buried in snow up to his waist. Imagine that! The snow must have been at least two to three feet deep, yet Dharma Master Shen Guang continued to kneel there seeking the Dharma.
At about lunch time, Patriarch Bodhidharma got up from where he had been facing the wall meditating and saw that the Dharma Master was still kneeling. He said, "What are you doing here, acting like that? It's snowing so hard. Why are you still kneeling there?"
Dharma Master Shen Guang replied, "I am seeking the Dharma! I am seeking the Way! Please, Patriarch, be compassionate and transmit to me the method for avoiding King Yama. Before, I lectured on the Sutras, but could not end my own birth and death. Now I want to end birth and death. Please, Patriarch, transmit the Dharma for ending birth and death to me."
Patriarch Bodhidharma thought for a while and said, "Now you are kneeling here pleading with me to teach you the Dharma for escaping King Yama. But do you remember the time when I asked you a question and you responded by breaking off two of my teeth with your recitation beads? Do you remember that time?" Then, he asked, "Is it snowing?"
Dharma Master Shen Guang said, "Yes, it is snowing. I am buried in snow up to my waist."
Patriarch Bodhidharma asked, "What color is the snow?"
Dharma Master Shen Guang said, "Snow is white, of course. Everyone knows that snow is white. I am not the only one who says so."
Then Patriarch Bodhidharma gave him a problem to solve. He assigned him his test question. He said, "Fine. You see that the snow falling from the sky is white. When red snow falls from the sky, I will transmit the Dharma to you. I will teach you how to end birth and death and escape from King Yama. If no red snow falls, you are out of luck. What a vicious monk you are to have knocked out two of my teeth with your recitation beads! I have already been most compassionate by not seeking revenge; how could I possibly transmit the Dharma to you!"
You all think about it: wouldn't solving that problem have been like trying to find a hair on a monk's head? In other words, wasn't it impossible? Monks are bald; there would be no hair to be found, right? But Patriarch Bodhidharma was searching for a hair on a monk's head. He said, "Whenever you see red snow falling, then I will transmit the Dharma to you." That was the test question he gave to Dharma Master Shen Guang to answer.