Emperor WU´s Memorial Stele of Bodhidharma

Large Bodhidharma statue at Damo Lake, Anhui Province

On the north side and lower flank of the Bear Ear Mountain in Luoyang there is an old stupa. This is Bodhidharma´s burial stupa. [1]

Some 100 meters away from the stupa is a Temple known as Kong Xiang (literally means ’empty appearance’ but also ’empty chamber’ ). [2]

Between the front gate and the distant hall you find four stone monuments sticking out from the ground. One of them (the 1st one) is a copy of a memorial stele purportedly composed by Emperor Wu to commemorate Bodhidharma´s supposed saha-death.

Its an impressive text, and one that surely is worth the attention of every good zennist with a sharp eye for the true bodhi (spiritual)-light of Mahayana.

Two more monuments of this memory steele with nearly the same text exists; one located at Yuanfu Temple in North China and one at Shaolin Temple. In them, Emperor Wu praises Bodhidharma and expresses regret that he didn´t understand his message while making all sort of exclamations, further extolling the old Zen-sage in traditional Chinese manners.

By the way, the Yuanfu temple [3] is where the second patriarch Huike is buried and today the burial pagoda is visited by many westerners paying homage to this most known disciple of Bodhidharma .

The beginning part of the ext reads as follows;

” I have heard, that within the blue sea, there is a Black Dragon[4] with a lustrous white pearl, and that neither gods nor men have ever seen it. But my teacher has done so [5], the great teacher Bodhidharma. He is said to have come from India, though his home is unknown. We don´t know his family name. This great teacher took mind to be the essence and the yin and yang as the device. His nature was provided by heaven and his wisdom given by gods. His bearing was like the sea and the mountains, his spirit like billowing clouds. He possessed Udana-like clarity, with profound learning like Dharmaruci. The entire Buddhist canon was within his mind-stream. The five skandhas are transported on the sea of words. Riches turn to dust, and golden speech [scriptures] fall short. Vowing to spread the Dharma, he came east from India, planting his staff in China. He expounded the wordless truth [6], like a bright candle in a dark room, like the bright moon when clouds open.

Further down the memorial stele we read:

Heaven is vast and blue. Wild beasts cry out. Sweet springs gush forth! Another cry! Non-action arrives, and all action is gone, the Way is manifested, and birth and death are exposed. Bodhidharma died on the fifth day of the twelfth month in the early morning hours at Yu Gate. His age was unknown. He was buried ceremoniously at Bear Ear Mountain. His disciples were grief-stricken. Their lamentation moved heaven and earth, and their tears drenched their bodies. They were overcome, mourning as though their fathers and mothers had died. All the disciples, eyes closed mourned in this manner.

Further down the memorial stele we read:

Though his body was interred there ina grave, his appearance [7] traveled to the western regions. It was as if he came but did not come, left but did not leave. None known as holy or wise have attained Bodhidharma´s wisdom. My imperial actions lack merit and only comprise unworthy karma. Above this karma has harmed heaven´s yin and yang. Below it has damaged the happiness of all beings. At night I am greatly troubled and unable to eat. Within all that are great functions, there is Buddhism´s Mind. Though I have not gained the merit of nine years of sitting meditation to benefit beings, I still seek the meaning of Dharma, this eternal and miraculous gate. Practised in peace it is the essence, the sublime. Those who transmit it by word and deed are the Great Teacher´s progeny. Alas! I saw him and didn´t see him! [8]. I have only regret and distress aboutthe past and present. Though I am an ordinary person, I dare take the role of teacher and say that which I have not attained in this life will create tthe conditions for my future rebirth. One cannot engrave mind onto a stone, so how can the dharma be demonstrated? I fear heaven will change and the earth will be transformed, and then teachings of the Great Teacher will not be heard.

Comment section:

[1] http://www.flickr.com/photos/dillonxiang/6542574053/in/photostream/lightbox/

[2] http://www.flickr.com/photos/dillonxiang/6542571697/in/photostream/lightbox/

[3] Temple seen in this video at the 02:58 mark http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-edsEf2mDxI

[4] Emperor Wu´s use of the term ‘Xuanlong (Black Dragon) ‘ in combination with the part of the sentence ‘within the blue sea’ , is interesting as the word in China also means ‘great king or Spirit dwelling in the depths of the mystic waters’ or a Dragon that dwells in deepest parts of a vast Sea or Mind, where no ordinary man has access to due to ignorance [of IT]. Hence the mystery.

Progeny´s of Bodhidharma´s true dharma and spiritual light of Mahayana, where thus known and referred to in ancient China as Black Dragons.

[5] The emperor supposedly had some later encounters with the Great Sage and was taught beginner dhyana, probably some basic prana exercises (breath exercises as to calm the monkey mind and allow the seed of bodhi bloom within him) which is reflected in the gratitude he expresses to his beloved teacher in the memorial stele.

[6] The spiritual light of Mahayana that is an awesome force, clearning beginningless kalpas of defilements, opening the way for true enlightenment/awakening. This light is also referred to as bodhi-citto-pada in sanskrit or Bodhi power in certain modern contemporary Mind Only schools.

[7] Among Tibetan Buddhists in the northern parts of India and even old Tibet, there are still a practise among Dzogchenist´s known as the rainbow body (Tibetan: Jalu or Jalus) or a body of light.

From the point of view of an external observer, the following happens: the corpse does not start to decompose, but starts to shrink until it disappears. Usually fingernails, toenails and hair are left behind. Usually a strong light or rainbow phenomenon is observed by those present or nearby by this conversion of matter into pure energy by means, aid and effectuation by the awesome power of Pure Mind.

The rainbow body phenomenon is usually accomplished by someone whom many times have ‘visited’ Satchidanandasagara (sanskrit: the indescribable Absolute Reality), and thus is firmly and irrevocably established in Jnana-nishtha (sanskrit: the knowledge of the self) thus having attained right knowledge (sanskrit: samma na.na, tibetan: Rigpa) and right emancipation (samma vimutti).

After this disposal of the material body (now converged into pure energy, hence the light),

His or her physical body self-liberates into a nonmaterial Sambhogakaya (sanskrit: body of light) with the ability to exist and abide wherever and whenever as pointed by one’s compassion.

Famous historical Sages whom are recorded to have done this are Jesus Christ , Bodhidharma, Vimalamitra, Plotinus and others. All, usually the mystics in their schools of Spirit/Mind Only.

[8] The emperor hints in this part of the text , that the Great Sage might already have been present before him in his Manomayakaya Body, and thus his ‘sitting’ in the cave for 9 years in this body, would explain the absence or intake of food or water for this entire period.

For one with a mind stuck to the skandhas, like flies are stuck to the sugarsweet and sticky surface of fly-paper , it is impossible to see a difference between a corporeal/material 3D like appearance and a manomayakaya-appearance. Only one not anymore fooled by sensory perception and well aquainted with the spiritual light of Mahayana, instantly reckognizes (and feels the awesome) presence of a Sage in his Manomayakaya-body (pure mind-body made out of pure Mind).

In dharma,


Kong Xiang Temple




Bodhidharmas famous cave


Damo statue at Damo lake

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6 Responses to Emperor WU´s Memorial Stele of Bodhidharma

  1. Vajragoni says:

    Thank-you for this presentation.

  2. Tozen says:

    You are welcome.

    Perhaps certain parts of the content might one day inspire and come handy for some meritious minds on their path of awakening the spiritual light of Mahayana within them, and not simply become caught in Maras dulling light of pure awareness , as is the hight of Zen these days among online ‘know-it all-zennists’. Keep up the good work!

  3. Chandra Mouleeswaran.MK says:

    Chandra Mouleeswaran.MK,
    Thank You very much for this Blog and the contents on Bodhidharma. I adore him and Zen, the True status of a Deep Human with Real MInd and Mind Power!. I personally know many true wise men who radiate The Light! I will try to follow up this blog as often as I can.

  4. Daruma Agan says:

    I was hypnotized and I saw a past life as Bodhidharma. I was looking at a very old man, with white hair and beard, dark Indian skin and he lying in state surrounded by his disciples! I saw Shaolin Monks weeping and crying. The entire monastery was crying and sobbing loudly!

    Today I found the reference that confirms that vision for me!

    “His disciples were grief-stricken. Their lamentation moved heaven and earth, and their tears drenched their bodies. They were overcome, mourning as though their fathers and mothers had died. All the disciples, eyes closed mourned in this manner.”

    My aura is rainbow colored and crystaline I was told. Reading this, I now understand this is because I previously attained a Rainbow Body! Thank you very much for filling in several bits of information I had been missing! It was very helpful!

    “Don’t judge something just because you don’t understand it!”

    Black Dragon, Kung Fu’s Zen patriarch. Mind exists in the Quantum field outside of space and time. Our brain is the modem that connects the Mind to this temporary body’s brain. We are and will always be a Quantum Buddha Mind! Buddha was the very first Quantum Physicist! “Infinite Multiverses and the Quantum Mind,” 2500 years ago! Now physicists are verifying Buddha’s philosophy as a scientific TRUTH!That is very gratifying!

    • Vajragoni says:

      Daruma Agan,

      I found your post to be most fascinating. What some may not realize in reference to your “past-life” exposure concerning Bodhidharma is that it’s not just one isolated incidence, i.e., shared exclusively by and for (or as) yourself alone; indeed, within that timeless quantum Buddha-field it has been shared by others as well–truly an incidence in which that quantum mode AS Bodhidharma breaking through the veil, empowering others to experience it as truly Real.

      Many thanks for your fascinating post! You truly experienced something profound.

  5. Tozen says:

    Daruma Agan:

    No envisioned thing, in any state, can ever equal your true nature. What is envisioned is but a collection of Spatio-temporal conditions, all fleeting, all perishable. Where consciousness chooses to go and settle, by reasons of the aforementioned, Mind does not. True Mind, just is. It has never been, nor does it ever becomes. That is its nirvanic nature for those seeking refuge in the permanent shining jewel of the Buddhadharma.

    The absolute reality of your true nature is Unborn {Mind]. It is not the equality, nor the merging with things, of which your body is but one of these conditions. Thus, to know this Mind, you cannot liken it, or compare it to anything but itself, fully and not partially.

    So done, the path of Nirvana is complete.

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