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June 19, 2010


Bodhidharma says…

by Repa Dorje Odzer

I suppose that as a gathering, this ganachakra has been a little himalaya-heavy.  I’d like to include other voices.   Essence-dharma cuts deep and clean no matter what tradition it comes from, and I often find that the difference in presentation of a different lineage hits me in a way other than what I have become habituated to- that’s a good thing.

Since I’ve been walking the foot path of training in contemplative care through the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care I thought that I would turn to Bodhidharma’s Bloodstream Sermon.  The direct and clear presentation of the Zen tradition is very refreshing.  Bodhidharma is credited with bringing Chan/Zen Buddhism to China.  Little is known of the details of his early life, but it is believed that he came from India where he left his life as a prince to become a monk and receive dharma transmission.  Bodhidharma is counted as the 28th Patriarch of a lineage line that goes back directly to Buddha Shakyamuni himself.  What is presented below is from The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma, translated by Red Pine.

Bodhidharma says:

…The mind’s capacity is limitless, and its manifestations are inexhaustible.  Seeing forms with your eyes, hearing sounds with your ears, smelling odors with your nose, tasting flavors with your tongue, every movement or state is all your mind.  At every moment, where language can’t go, that’s your mind.

The sutras say, “A tathagata’s forms are endless.  And so is his awareness.”  The endless variety of forms is due to the mind.  Its ability to distinguish things, whatever their movement or state, is the mind’s awareness.  But the mind has no form and its awareness no limit.  Hence it’s said, “A tathagata’s forms are endless. And so is his awareness.”

A material body of the four elements is trouble.  A material body is subject to birth and death.  But the real body exists without existing; because a tathagata’s real body never changes.  The sutras say, “People should realize that the buddha-nature is something that they have always had.”  Kashyapa only realized his own nature.

Our nature is the mind.  And the mind is our nature.  This nature is the same as the mind of all buddhas.  Buddhas of the past and future only transmit this mind.  Beyond this mind there’s no buddha anywhere.  But deluded people don’t realize that their own mind is the buddha.  They keep searching outside.  They never stop invoking buddhas or worshiping buddhas and wondering Where is the Buddha? Don’t indulge in such illusions.  Just know your mind.  Beyond your mind there’s no other buddha.  The sutras say, “Everything that has a form is an illusion.”  They also say, “Wherever you are, there’s a buddha.”  Your mind is the Buddha.  Don’t use a buddha to worship a buddha…

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jun 20 2010

    Very interesting and timely information. In my recent reading I have come across this quote attributed to Meister Eckhart (13th century German mystic): “If you fight your death, you’ll feel the demons tearing away at your life, but, if you have the right attitiude to death, you will be able to see that the devils are really angels setting your spirit free.”

    There are many paths to finding a degree of comfort with the idea of dying, but as a culture there is such a sense of discomfort with even bringing up the topic.

    • Thank you Martha. The quote you have included is excellent. How true. Perhaps only as individuals can we work to change our culture’s tendency towards hiding from the emotions surrounding death. It would be interesting to see what others bring to the discussion.


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