Ancient Cultivation Stories: Bodhidharma

Bodhidharma was born in a Brahman family in the southern India. He was cheerful, wise, and had a rather high enlightenment quality. He focused all his energy on studying in the Mahayana or "Great Vehicle" school.

He came to Guangzhou on the eighth year of Putong (527 A.D.) of Emperor Liang Wudi. Emperor Wudi dispatched an envoy to welcome him to Jinling (Today's Nanjiang).

Emperor Wudi asked him: "After I ascended the throne, I have built countless temples and residences for monks. How much merit have I accrued?"

Bodhidharma answered: "There is no merit."

The Emperor asked him why. Bodhidharma said: "It is because of omission. Although it looks like you have merits, but it's not real."

The Emperor asked again: "What is true merit?" Bodhidharma said: "Being without any worries and having no thought in one's mind. This type of merit can not be obtained by doing good deeds in the secular world."

The Emperor asked again: "What is the meaning of Shengde?"

Bodhidharma said: "When one is free, there is no dharma."

Bodhidharma left Liang. He used a piece of reed twig to cross the Yangtze River and went to the territory of the Northern Wei. He then went to Luoyang (in Henan Province) and cultivated at the Shaolin Temple on Songshan Mountain. He meditated continuously for nine years. After his death, he was buried in Xioner Mountain.

When Songyun returned from the Western Regions on his diplomatic mission, he saw Bodhidharma carrying a shoe walking alone at Congling. When Songyun asked him where he was going, Bodhidharma told him that he was going to the Western Paradise. He also told Songyun: "Our Emperor is world-weary." Songyun didn't know what he meant. When he came back to the capital, he found out that Emperor Ming had already died and Emperor Xiao Xhuang had taken over the throng. Songyun told the emperor that he had met Bodhidharma on his way back. The emperor, therefore ordered Bodhidharma's coffin be opened. They only found one shoe inside the coffin.

(From the book Legends of Holy Monks, vol. 4)

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