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Buddhadharma : Winter 2006
winter 2006| 62 |buddhadharma As if in passing, Guole asks if we’d like to see the Second Ancestor’s burial urn. We follow him to a storeroom where the broken burial vessel of Huike’s sacred relics rests among empty grain bags, bottles, and other litter. Guole explains that the relics are now held safely in a smaller urn kept by the local historical society. Next to the urn we find a small cracked stone stele, which I photograph. When I translate it later, I find it to be an eleventh-century memorial acknowledging the generosity of patrons who contributed to the cost of repairs to the temple after it was damaged during a period of warfare. In the Zen Lamp Records, we find the story of Bodhidharma’s transmission of his dharma on mind to the Second Ancestor, which took place by a mountain cave near Shao Lin Temple. Huike is said to have waited in the snow for Bodhidharma to emerge from the cave. Some versions of the story claim that he cut off his left arm to demonstrate his earnestness. Here is the critical exchange that transpired when Bodhidharma finally emerged to meet him: Huike: “Please teach me the dharma seal of all the buddhas.” Bodhidharma: “The dharma seal of all the buddhas cannot be obtained from someone else.” Huike: “My mind is distressed. Please pacify it [with your teaching].” Bodhidharma: “Present me your mind and I will pacify it.” Huike: “I’ve searched for my mind, but I can’t find it.” Bodhidharma: “There. I’ve pacified it.” This story, which was not meant to be cute, reveals an important aspect of the nature of mind. Zen emphasizes that our mind, indeed our ungraspable “self,” is not to be found in our body or brain. This is the “big mind” that Zen and Tibetan Buddhist teachers love to talk about. It is also sometimes called the “mind of all beings,” “true monk’s eye,” and, most of all, “the treasury of the true dharma eye.” The latter name was used throughout China’s Zen history, although it is most often associated with the work of the Japanese teacher Eihei Dogen, many centuries later. The nature of this “big mind” is described throughout the Zen Lamp Records. It is what the old Zen master Huangbo said “is always manifested,” and comprises, in Dogen’s words, the “myriad things that come forth” to be our true self. Many students, and even some teachers, con- sider the point of Zen practice to understand the nature of reality, but that is not so. Such a prac- tice is unrealistic and can lead to confusion and difficulty for students. In his instruction, “Point directly at the human mind, see its nature, and become Buddha,” Bodhidharma makes the key point that rather than look for ultimate reality, we should instead observe our ultimate nature, the nature of mind. This is simply what is happening, or, to use the traditional term, “thusness.” Bodhi- dharma does not set forth a doctrine of belief or even, ultimately, a defined method of practice. He just points directly at the human mind and asks us to see what’s happening. Our meditation is the act of observing mind. In China, there are a variety of places where Bodhidharma is said to have lived and taught. At least two temples in Guangzhou (Canton) are historically connected with him, including Hualin Temple, said to be located near the place where, according to legend, he came ashore after arriv- ing from India. There you can see the remains of an ancient well, located where Bodhidharma once pointed at the ground in a shellfish bed and said, “There is gold there!” Some greedy locals dug a hole to find the gold, but instead they found a sweet spring flowing with miraculously fresh water in an otherwise brackish area. Other places related to Bodhidharma include a temple he is said to have established in Anwei province, plus the place where he is said to have crossed the Yangtse River. A leg- end that claims he crossed the waters on a “single reed” may have been derived from the name of the place where he is said to have crossed, “Reed.” Visiting the grounds of Yuanfu Temple. (Right) Red Pine examines the inscription on a stone stele.