Tozen: The Spirit of Zen Buddhism

Bodhidharma´s Cave 2 (1)


The Zen Master wanders the temple yard, while slowly waving a paper fan against his face under the hot summer sun. A monk approaches fast].

“Yes, Master?”

“It is a hot day, and all beings suffer the sun of ignorance. Thus, we need to cool ourselves in the brilliant light of the dharma for a while before night falls. Let’s discuss the undisputable teaching of Bodhidharma. Feel free and present the basic principle of his dharma to me.”

“Master, this is what I know so far about the teaching of the great sage; He introduced the dharma of our Lord Buddha, as one of two entries and four practices. The entrances were, one; entrance through principle and, two: entrance through practice. The latter was further subdivided as; one; the practice of retribution of sameness between all things, whether of form or no-form. two; the practice of accepting all circumstances, including ones own, as old karma maturing in the temporal continuum of samsara. Three; practicing he absence of craving towards what is not self, which essentially are all things emerging as configurations of samsara , and finally four; the practice of being in accordance with the dharma, or more correctly, the imageless light of the Unborn Buddha Mind. That is what I know about the great sage, Master.” [bows].

“Impressive. You certainly are proficient in the provisional teachings of the great sage…hmmm. Now tell me, does this wisdom that might seem profound in the eyes of a worldling, save you from the horrors of birth, life and death?

“Our patron sage thought so, Master, and as I have faith in his teachings, I would like to think so.”

“Ah, so. In the beginning of this inquiry, I asked you to present the basic principle of the deathless dharma to me. So far, all I have seen, is dried shit hanging out on for show [slaps the student with his folded fan on the head.] Wake up!.”

” I do not understand.”

“Even that answer is a suitable answer to my question, yet it remains stubbornly inappropriate in your own Mind.”

[student responds by bowing erratically in shame]

“There you go again. Presenting the answer of your true nature right before your own self and yet you allow something hide the great truth form yourself. Are you possessed? ”

“No, not as far as I know, Master. ”

“It was a rhetorical question.”

“I am speechless thus I bow as an excuse of my stupidity, Have mercy Master.”

“On the contrary, have mercy upon yourself. The will and light of your awesome Mind is by habit more focused on your inner demon, that divides it for its own lower desires, than on that spiritual pure child that is thirsting for awakened self-recognition and playful games and expressions of the imageless.

Let me put it this way. Ultimately all this, is illusion, and in truth there is only one great practice, One of full beingness in the imageless body of Mind Only. How can you ever believe its center of consciousness is in that carnal composition of old karma?

How can you speak of any entrance into something you originally never left, but only denied yourself through a sudden friction of arised desire between your true nature and what is an illusory consciousness, filled with a world of phenomena . One created from this continuous friction, between the spiritual and the illusory world of countless desires and positions of matured karma? Cease that dichotomy of wills within you, and the light of the Unborn Buddha Mind will emerge naturally, once all conditions for its presence are ripe.”

“Is this what the great sage contemplated for nine years, while resting his karmic body in the cave of Wuru Peak[1]?”

“By raising this fan towards the heavens, I expound the same principle as the great sage. For those with little sand in their eyes, there is deathlessness to be found in this marvelous and effortless expression of the imageless principle behind this simple act. By lowering the fan, pointing it towards the lower dominions of the hellish worldbeings, of grosser constitution than this word, the principle is equally pure in its compassionate expression of our true nature, when used for just such unwholesome causes as being one of a hellish existence.

People seek to find explanation in what needs no explanation, but merely pure recognition by right view of it, acceptance, surrendering and purification by its measureless power, until one is completely One with IT and not of two or more minds, as the Mara the evil one desires of you. That is the divided attention of your originally Unified and uncreated Mind.”

“If that is so, how do you explain the bi-location, or even multi-location of the great bodhisattvas in their aid of suffering sentients?”

“What is of One Mind, without the slightest division, pervades the all, as purely such without the slightest delay, because in it, there is no real time to speak of, much less space, where differentiation can take place. But unless you find a path to reside in its mystery, all this will forever remain merely academic to you, with no greater value than the dried shit as I told you about earlier in our discussion. If anything, remember this now and always: The spirit of Zen Buddhism is in the Mind. For you it is about to find the right Mind and stay there permanently!”

“I see now. I will do as you say and reconsider my view on Bodhidharma´s two entrances and four practices and see them as one and same from any given view. [claps his hands one time and bows]”

[The Zen Master starts flapping the fan] “Ah…the imageless sound of a raindrop finding its way home. Marvelous!”


[1] The path to Bodhidharma’s cave is on Wuru Peak, through the grounds of Shaolin Temple, just outside of Dengfeng, China.

Bodhidharma´s Cave 1

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