Wednesday, July 1, 2009
The Zen Teachings of Bodhidharma
Bodhidharma left India and went to the Shaolin Temple in Henan Province, China sometime in the 5th century CE. He is also known in China as Da Mo who played a critical and pivotal role in the history of Chinese martial arts. It is said that after seeing the Shaolin monks in terrible physical condition from constant meditation, he went to a cave up above the temple to meditate in hope of finding a solution to their problem. He stayed in that cave for years until he came up with a system of exercises which he taught to the Shaolin monks. These exercises, called the Eighteen Hands of the Lohan (Buddha), were designed to cultivate and nurture our internal energy, or chi, and are considered to be the origin of Shaolin Kung Fu. It was also at this temple that historians claim Zen* was established by Bodhidharma. There is no doubt that this form of Mahāyāna Buddhism, Chan Buddhism, and ancient Taoism are representations of the same One Truth. It is for this reason that I wanted to present this outline of Zen here to further show how this One Truth can be found everywhere in the world and throughout the history of mankind. Karma and therefore Destiny are also clearly demonstrated in these ancient teachings and add support to my earlier posts here on the subject of Karma.
Additionally, of great importance to me, my Path with Heart is explained in detail as the Path of practice. This is incredible because it is the ultimate Agreement that validates my entire way of life and fully supports my total dedication to my Path with Heart!! This Path describes my life, my Path, for the last thirty-four years exactly as it has been and continues to be to this day. I am living the four all-inclusive practices!! What a blessing it is to find these ancient teachings by the founding Master of Zen Buddhism that mirror my life experience!!!
Note: Be sure to click the several links within this Outline for much greater detail and the very interesting historical material. Enjoy!
The Zen Teachings of Bodhidharma
~ Translated by Red Pine 1987
Outline of Practice
Many roads lead to the Path, but basically there are only two: reason and practice. To enter by reason means to realize the essence through instruction and to believe that all living things share the same true nature, which isn't apparent because it's shrouded by sensation and delusion. Those who turn from delusion back to reality, who meditate on walls,' the absence of self and other, the oneness of mortal and sage, and who remain unmoved even by scriptures are in complete and unspoken agreement with reason. Without moving, without effort, they enter, we say, by reason.
To enter by practice refers to four all-inclusive practices: Suffering injustice, adapting to conditions, seeking nothing, and practicing the Dharma*. First, suffering injustice. When those who search for the Path encounter adversity, they should think to themselves, "In Countless ages gone by, I've turned from the essential to the trivial and wandered through all manner of existence, often angry without cause and guilty of numberless transgressions.
Now, though I do no wrong, I'm punished by my past. Neither gods nor men can foresee when an evil deed will bear its fruit. I accept it with an open heart and without complaint of injustice. The sutras* say " when you meet with adversity don't be upset because it makes sense." With such understanding you're in harmony with reason. And by suffering injustice you enter the Path. Second, adapting to conditions. As mortals, we're ruled by conditions, not by ourselves. All the suffering and joy we experience depend on conditions. If we should be blessed by some great reward, such as fame or fortune, it's the fruit of a seed planted by us in the past. When conditions change, it ends. Why delight In Its existence? But while success and failure depend on conditions, the mind neither waxes nor wanes. Those who remain unmoved by the wind of joy silently follow the Path.
Third, seeking nothing. People of this world are deluded. They're always longing for something-always, in a word, seeking. But the wise wake up. They choose reason over custom. They fix their minds on the sublime and let their bodies change with the seasons. All phenomena are empty. They contain nothing worth desiring. Calamity forever alternates with Prosperity! To dwell in the three realms is to dwell in a burning house. To have a body is to suffer. Does anyone with a body know peace? Those who understand this detach themselves from all that exists and stop Imagining or seeking anything. The sutras say, "To seek is to suffer.
To seek nothing is bliss." When you seek nothing, you're on the Path. Fourth, practicing the Dharma.' The Dharma is the truth that all natures are pure. By this truth, all appearances are empty. Defilement and attachment, subject and object don't exist. The sutras say, "The Dharma includes no being because it's free from the impurity of being, and the Dharma includes no self because it's free from the impurity of self." Those wise enough to believe and understand these truths are bound to practice according to the Dharma. And since that which is real includes nothing worth begrudging, they give their body, life, and property in charity, without regret, without the vanity of giver, gift, or recipient, and without bias or attachment. And to eliminate impurity they teach others, but without becoming attached to form. Thus, through their own practice they're able to help others and glorify the Way of Enlightenment. And as with charity, they also practice the other virtues. But while practicing the six virtues to eliminate delusion, they practice nothing at all. This is what's meant by practicing the Dharma.
*Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism, translated from the Chinese word Chán. Chán is itself derived from the Sanskrit Dhyāna, which means "meditation". The entry of Buddhism into China was marked by interaction and syncretism, with Taoism in particular. Originally seen as a kind of "foreign Taoism", Buddhism's scriptures were translated into Chinese using the Taoist vocabulary. Chan Buddhism was particularly modified by Taoism, integrating distrust of scripture, text and even language, as well as the Taoist views of embracing "this life", dedicated practice and the "every-moment". The establishment of Zen is traditionally credited to be in China, the Shaolin temple, by the Southern Indian Pallava prince-turned-monk Bodhidharma, who is recorded as having come to China to teach a "special transmission outside scriptures" which "did not stand upon words". The emergence of Zen as a distinct school of Buddhism was first documented in China in the 7th century CE. It is thought to have developed as an amalgam of various currents in Mahāyāna Buddhist thought—among them the Yogācāra and Madhyamaka philosophies and the Prajñāpāramitā literature—and of local traditions in China, particularly Taoism and Huáyán Buddhism. From China, Zen subsequently spread southwards to Vietnam and eastwards to Korea and Japan.
* Dharma (Sanskrit): Law, truth, reality, teaching; thing, or being, esp. when spelled with a small 'd' (dharma).
* Sutra (Sanskrit). Scripture.