The monk Huike had come a long way, hoping to learn from Bodhidharma. But Bodhidharma sat facing a wall at the Shaolin Monastery all day, ignoring him. It was getting dark and beginning to snow. Huike thought to himself, “Men of ancient times have sought the Way by smashing their bones to the marrow, feeding the hungry with their blood, spreading their hair to cover the muddy road for the master … what is my little suffering in comparison?” He stood firm and by the next day snow had buried him up to his knees.
Finally Bodhidharma took pity on him and asked, “What are you seeking?”
Huike sobbed and begged the master, “Please, have mercy, open the gate of nectar that can liberate sentient beings!”
The master said, “The supreme, profound Way of the Buddhas is attainable only after innumerable eons of striving, achieving the impossible, bearing the unbearable. How could a man like you, of little virtue and wisdom, filled with contempt and arrogance, ever hope to grasp it? You’re just wasting your time.”
Hearing the master’s scolding, Huike took out a sword and cut off his left arm.
Bodhidharma saw that Huike had the capacity to carry on the Dharma and said to him, “The Buddhas of the past have also disregarded their bodies to seek the Truth. You do have the potential.”
Huike asked, “May I hear the Dharma seal of the Buddhas?”
The master said, “The Dharma seal cannot be obtained from others.”
Huike said, “My mind is not at peace.”
The master answered “Bring me your mind, I will set it at peace it for you.”
After a long silence Huike said, “I cannot find the mind anywhere.”
Bodhidharma said, “I have already set your mind at peace.”
Putting on the Bodhi-mind comes at a great price! One’s eyes and ears and nose and mouth and arms and legs need to be discarded. The last devilry to sever is the demon’s own head. Headless, where is the villainous mind to creep?