Sunday, October 6, 2013

Bodhidharma Day - Zen is inside us; stop running from it

Bodhidharma figurine
Hong Kong Museum of Art
I'm not sure when Bodhidharma Day is each year, but I thought it was October 5th in a previous year so...Happy Bodhidharma Day!

What better way to celebrate a day dedicated to the founder of Zen, than to commemorate some of his insights? The translations I'm using come from Red Pine's wonderful book The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma. This short book (125 pages, including notes) contains translations of the four sermons of Bodhidharma which have come down to us. All the excerpts below come from the Bloodstream Sermon.

Bodhidharma believed we are all buddhas and, further, everything that we need to achieve enlightenment is already inside us. At any time, we only need to stop, look, and see. We don't find enlightenment; we stop running away from it. I've found this to be very true in my own experience with Zen, so much so that I believe reading books about Zen or listening to lectures about Zen is inherently wrong minded. Zen is inside us, ready to be experienced by a disciplined mindset (usually achieved through sitting in zazen). So there's no need for books or lectures, rules or how-tos. In fact, such outside influences are most likely to confuse us and keep us trapped in delusion. That said, the words of a master can point us toward right mindedness and be a helpful guide.

Here are some great nuggets from Bodhidharma relating to the idea that we have everything we need already inside us:

"Awareness isn't hidden. But you can only find it right now. It's only now. If you really want to find the Way, don't hold onto anything...Understanding comes naturally. You don't have to make any effort. But fanatics don't understand what the Buddha meant. And the harder they try, the further they get from the Sage's meaning. All day long they invoke buddhas and read sutras. But they remain blind to their own divine nature."
"Once you see your mind, why pay attention to doctrines?"
"Buddhas don't recite sutras. Buddhas don't keep percepts. And buddhas don't break percepts. Buddhas don't keep or break anything. Buddhas don't do good or evil." 
"Once you stop clinging and let things be, you'll be free, even of birth and death. You'll transform everything. You'll possess spiritual powers that can't be obstructed. And you'll be at peace wherever you are."

All quotes are from Bloodstream Sermon (translation: Red Pine), The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma

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