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Chapter 17: Take the risk wholesale
Energy Enhancement Enlightened Texts Zen Bodhidharma
BUT THE BUDDHA SAID, "ONLY AFTER UNDERGOING INNUMERABLE HARDSHIPS FOR THREE ASANKHYA KALPAS DID I ACHIEVE ENLIGHTENMENT." WHY DO YOU NOW SAY THAT SIMPLY BEHOLDING THE MIND AND OVERCOMING THE THREE POISONS IS LIBERATION?
THE WORDS OF THE BUDDHA ARE TRUE. BUT THE THREE ASANKHYA KALPAS REFER TO THE THREE POISONED STATES OF MIND. WHAT WE CALL ASANKHYA IN SANSKRIT, YOU CALL COUNTLESS. WITHIN THESE THREE POISONED STATES OF MIND ARE COUNTLESS EVIL THOUGHTS. AND EVERY THOUGHT LASTS A KALPA. SUCH AN INFINITY IS WHAT THE BUDDHA MEANT BY THE THREE ASANKHYA KALPAS ....
BUT THE GREAT BODHISATTVAS HAVE ONLY ACHIEVED ENLIGHTENMENT BY OBSERVING THE THREE SETS OF PRECEPTS AND BY PRACTICING THE SIX PARAMITAS. NOW YOU TELL DISCIPLES MERELY TO BEHOLD THE MIND. HOW CAN ANYONE REACH ENLIGHTENMENT WITHOUT CULTIVATING THE RULES OF DISCIPLINE?
THE THREE SETS OF PRECEPTS ARE FOR OVERCOMING THE THREE POISONED STATES OF MIND. WHEN YOU OVERCOME THESE POISONS, YOU CREATE THREE SETS OF LIMITLESS VIRTUE. A SET GATHERS THINGS TOGETHER -- IN THIS CASE, COUNTLESS GOOD THOUGHTS THROUGHOUT YOUR MIND. AND THE SIX PARAMITAS ARE FOR PURIFYING THE SIX SENSES. WHAT WE CALL PARAMITAS, YOU CALL MEANS TO THE OTHER SHORE. BY PURIFYING YOUR SIX SENSES OF THE DUST OF SENSATION, THE PARAMITAS FERRY YOU ACROSS THE RIVER OF AFFLICTION TO THE SHORE OF ENLIGHTENMENT.
ACCORDING TO THE SUTRAS, THE THREE SETS OF PRECEPTS ARE, "I VOW TO PUT AN END TO ALL EVILS. I VOW TO CULTIVATE ALL VIRTUES. AND I VOW TO LIBERATE ALL BEINGS." BUT NOW YOU SAY THEY'RE ONLY FOR CONTROLLING THE THREE POISONED STATES OF MIND. ISN'T THIS CONTRARY TO THE MEANING OF THE SCRIPTURES?
THE SUTRAS OF THE BUDDHA ARE TRUE. BUT LONG AGO, WHEN THAT GREAT BODHISATTVA WAS CULTIVATING THE SEED OF ENLIGHTENMENT, IT WAS TO COUNTER THE THREE POISONS THAT HE MADE HIS THREE VOWS. PRACTICING MORAL PROHIBITIONS TO COUNTER THE POISON OF GREED, HE VOWED TO PUT AN END TO ALL EVILS. PRACTICING MEDITATION TO COUNTER THE POISON OF ANGER, HE VOWED TO CULTIVATE ALL VIRTUES. AND PRACTICING WISDOM TO COUNTER THE POISON OF DELUSION, HE VOWED TO LIBERATE ALL BEINGS. BECAUSE HE PERSEVERED IN THESE THREE PURE PRACTICES OF MORALITY, MEDITATION AND WISDOM, HE WAS ABLE TO OVERCOME THE THREE POISONS AND REACH ENLIGHTENMENT. BY OVERCOMING THE THREE POISONS, HE WIPED OUT EVERYTHING SINFUL AND THUS PUT AN END TO EVIL. BY OBSERVING THE THREE SETS OF PRECEPTS, HE DID NOTHING BUT GOOD AND THUS CULTIVATED VIRTUE. AND BY PUTTING AN END TO EVIL AND CULTIVATING VIRTUE, HE CONSUMMATED ALL PRACTICES, BENEFITED HIMSELF AS WELL AS OTHERS AND RESCUED MORTALS EVERYWHERE. THUS, HE LIBERATED BEINGS.
Bodhidharma is now really facing a question for which he has no answer. The case was the same in last night's sutra and it continues because the disciples are asking more and more about the ultimate, which simply baffles all knowledge. It is a peace, a silence ...there is no answer.
But it is really difficult to accept that you are enlightened and you don't know the answers to the ultimate questions. Then what has your enlightenment done for you if it has not solved the mystery? Then what kind of wisdom have you received?
This has to be clarified for you. It is sad that Bodhidharma did not clarify it for his disciples; on the contrary he continued to answer questions which cannot by their very nature be answered.
But this is a problem that every master has to face. When the questions are trivial the master is perfectly at ease to answer, but as the disciples become more and more keen in their enquiry and they start touching the ultimate, the master comes to a difficult situation. So as not to let the disciples feel that the master does not know, he goes on answering -- but those answers are not true answers. They are in themselves perfectly right for some other questions, but not for the questions that have been posed before him.
The question is very important. But even the greatest masters like Bodhidharma belong to a particular line of philosophy, a particular set of doctrines; hence they have to keep on repeating the ideological system they have accepted.
It is totally different with me. I don't belong to any ideology. I don't have to console anybody. I am not concerned with who gets annoyed and irritated. My sole concern is that when you ask a question, you need a sincere answer -- not according to ideology but according to my own experience.
The disciple asks: BUT THE BUDDHA SAID, "ONLY AFTER UNDERGOING INNUMERABLE HARDSHIPS FOR THREE ASANKHYA KALPAS DID I ACHIEVE ENLIGHTENMENT." WHY DO YOU NOW SAY THAT SIMPLY BEHOLDING THE MIND AND OVERCOMING THE THREE POISONS IS LIBERATION?
The truth is a little complicated. First I will explain my position, if I were to answer the question. Then it will be easier for you to understand the difference, when a person answers because of a certain ideological school that he belongs to, and when a person answers just out of his own experience and response.
The Buddha has certainly said: "ONLY AFTER UNDERGOING INNUMERABLE HARDSHIPS FOR THREE ASANKHYA KALPAS DID I ACHIEVE ENLIGHTENMENT." But as far as I can see, this is not a true statement of Gautam Buddha himself. It is what the Mahayana school of Buddhism maintains is the answer. Now Buddha is not there to refute it, and everything that he has said has been written after his death. And it has been written by common consent: a great gathering was called of all the old disciples who had been listening to him from the very beginning, and they assembled what everybody remembered.
There was dissension, there was conflict, there was contradiction, and the whole gathering divided into thirty-two groups and they separated from each other. And all thirty-two groups have their own scriptures, their own reports of what Buddha said. Mahayana is only one school, the biggest, which has the greatest following. And certainly the reason why it has the biggest following is that it says that Buddha, once awakened, remains on this shore to liberate people.
In fact, they have even invented a story: When Buddha reached the doors of MOKSHA, the ultimate resting place for liberated beings, the doors were opened and there was great music and celebration because it rarely, very rarely happens that a man comes to such great enlightenment. Thousands of years pass and the door remains closed. Naturally there was great jubilation among the other buddhas who had entered moksha during the millions of years that had passed. They were welcoming a new guest.
But Buddha refused to enter the gate. He turned his back towards the gate and told the gatekeeper, "Please close the gate. I will stand outside the gate until the last human being has become enlightened. It may take millions and millions of years -- it does not matter. I'm at peace. I'm in absolute ecstasy. I can wait. But this will be a little selfish to enter the gate and forget all about those who are still groping in the darkness."
Every effort was made to persuade him that this is not the way ...nobody has done this before. He said, "That simply means nobody has entered moksha with a compassionate heart. For compassion towards my human brothers and sisters, I can renounce moksha itself. It does not matter to me. It cannot give me more than I have already got. I will stand here before the door and when the last human being has passed in, then I will pass through."
This is a fictitious story of the Mahayana school. Because of this idea of compassion for other human beings, naturally Mahayana attracted more people who are not able to become awakened on their own. They need help. They need a compassionate, awakened person. And the Mahayana school preaches that every enlightened person in Mahayana will be doing every possible thing that he can do to make more and more people liberated. Because he has now a dual duty: people have to be liberated and secondly, if people are not liberated, Gautam Buddha has to stand at the gate for millions of years. So compassion for the people -- they have to make every effort to liberate them, and gratitude to Gautam Buddha and his strange stand, that he is boycotting moksha, the ultimate state of silence and peace and rest just to make sure that nobody is left behind.
The other school is Hinayana; it has not attracted so many people. The very word means "the small boat." Mahayana means "the big ship" ...an ocean liner, so thousands of people can go to the other shore together. But in a small boat, only one man can go. And the people who created Hinayana are the arhatas. They are enlightened and their standpoint is that even to make an effort to liberate people is interfering with their individual freedom. It is not compassion, it is not love: love gives freedom.
Compassion does not force a certain way of life on people, and liberation is a certain way of life. Although it is for their good, still you are forcing them, insisting on it, that they follow the path, that they don't waste time. You are not allowing them total freedom to be themselves. When they feel like moving on the path, they will move. And if they don't feel to, it is nobody's concern. It is their absolute right to remain in the world and not to go to moksha.
The arhatas interpret compassion in a very refined way, with a very total, different perspective. It is very difficult to choose who is right. Both seem to be right ....
But Hinayana naturally could not gather as many disciples. Who would be interested in the people in the Hinayana school, who are not even interested in your liberation? They will not speak, they will not support, they will not give you a hand to pull you out of the ditch. They will simply wait. If you are capable of falling in the ditch you are certainly capable of getting out of it. If you are capable of falling into wrong paths, you are perfectly capable of feeling the misery, the suffering of the wrong path; you can change your path. Nobody else can do it for you.
So this is the Mahayana interpretation, that Buddha took millions of ages to become enlightened. For the arhatas the situation is totally different. They say it is not a question of millions of years and arduous effort. It was all a dream. Whether you dream for three million years, or three days, or three minutes, it makes no difference. The moment you wake up, all the dreams will be found to be simply hot air. There is no such tension then.
Even your disciplines -- what you are practicing to obtain liberation -- are really a kind of greed. And greed cannot destroy greed. It is ambition, and ambition cannot destroy the ego. Perhaps it is the greatest ambition -- to be liberated, to be enlightened.
But wherever there is desire and ambition, you are in bondage. And all your practices and all your disciplines are but practicing in a dream. It is almost as if you are weak, but in your dream you do great gymnastics and you feel that you have become a world champion. But in the morning when you wake up, the same mouse is sleeping in the bed. What happened to all your gymnastics that you have been dreaming about?
You can dream about being a great sage, you can dream of being a great thief, you can dream of murdering many people, you can dream of serving many people but in the morning you will feel there is no distinction between all those dreams. They are all dreams made of the same stuff. They are all fictions. The good is as much a fiction as bad. The spiritual discipline is as much a fiction as murdering somebody. So those who don't believe in the Mahayana doctrine say you can become enlightened, here and now. That was really the position of Bodhidharma. And that is creating the problem now. He cannot say Buddha is wrong; that is impossible. He loves Gautam Buddha, he is a disciple of Gautam Buddha, so he cannot say Gautam Buddha is wrong. He has to say the words of the Buddha are true.
But his own position is that whatever you have been doing in your unconsciousness is meaningless. When you wake up it all disappears within seconds. And you can wake up at any moment. Just a certain right device and you will be awakened.
You can wake up in the middle of the night. The dreams cannot prevent you from waking up; neither can your sleep prevent you from waking up. It is just your own will not to wake up. That's why the sleep continues and the dream continues. If the will to wake up arises in you, then enlightenment is instantaneous.
Now this is Bodhidharma's own position. But he is in a difficulty because he belongs to the Mahayana school and he was teaching in China, to the Mahayana schools to which China belongs. Those disciples who were asking were quoting Buddha according to Mahayana sutras. Now nobody knows whether Buddha said them or they were inventions of a certain school, because in the Hinayana school those sutras are not found. And these are only two schools ...the main ones. There are thirty other schools which are very small streams, but they also have something, a grandeur of their own, and they all differ.
But on one point they all agree: that Buddha cannot be wrong. They cannot say that Buddha is wrong. So they have to go round about saying that Buddha is right. Still, what they are saying is also right, although it is contradictory. The disciple is asking: "Why do you now say that simply beholding the mind and overcoming the three poisons is liberation? You are making it too simple."
Buddha himself is saying that he has been undergoing INNUMERABLE HARDSHIPS FOR THREE ASANKHYA KALPAS -- that is, innumerable ages -- and then he achieved enlightenment. It was not instantaneous. It had a long history of millions of years behind it ...of doing good, of avoiding evil, of practicing meditation, of practicing other disciplines. It took three innumerable ages for him to become a buddha.
If this was the situation of a Gautam Buddha, who seems to be the greatest human being who has lived on the earth, then what will be the situation for an ordinary man? Perhaps instead of three ...thirteen asankhya kalpas, or thirty! But you are saying that just by watching your mind, just at this very moment, you can become enlightened.
How did these two different attitudes arise? If you don't understand the background, you will not be able to understand the difficulty of Bodhidharma. Buddha left his palace when he was twenty-nine years of age. He went to every great teacher who was famous in his day and he was such a sincere seeker that he risked everything. Whatever those teachers said, he did it more perfectly than they had ever expected from anyone. In fact, they themselves were not so perfect.
And Buddha said, "I have done it, but nothing has happened. I am still as ignorant as I was before. Yes, I have learned a certain skill. I can do a certain distortion of the body, by yoga. But that does not make me aware of my being; it does not deliver me the good, the truth.
His sincerity was indubitable. Even his teachers felt ashamed. They had never come across such a student. The teacher, the ordinary teacher, always likes mediocre students because compared to them, he is a great teacher. And whenever -- sometimes it happens -- a great student, who towers higher than the teacher himself, comes to him, then the teacher feels angry, irritated, because the student continuously brings questions which the teacher cannot answer. Whatever he answers, the student is always able to refute it.
One of my teachers got tired of me because for eight months continuously, I would not let him move a single inch. We were stuck on a single point. He would bring all kinds of arguments and he was looking into books .... I was also working hard to refute him and all the other students enjoyed it -- because the teacher was so much engaged with me, he had completely forgotten to give homework, or to teach anything else. There was no time, because the first lesson had not yet been learned so he could not move to the second.
The examination was coming near and then he became really mad at me. He started shouting at me. I said, "Listen, you are an old man. If you shout so much, you may have a heart attack. And I hope it is not heart failure ...just a small attack. But don't think that by shouting, you can shut me up. And if you think it is a match in shouting, I can also shout. And you are an old man -- I will really enjoy shouting. So calm down."
He understood the point, but he left the class and went to the principal and said, "Now it is absolutely certain that either I remain in the school, in the college, or this student remains. You can choose." The principal said, "But what is the matter? Has he done anything wrong to you?"
He said, "He has not been allowing me to teach the students and the examination is coming close. All the students are going to fail, except for him. And he has a strange stamina. I have been working hard. I have never worked so hard, reading late into the night, finding new arguments, and the next day he simply refutes them. He is working harder than me. Of course he is young and it is very humiliating to get defeated every day. I resign. I will not come to the college again if you don't expel him." And he left for his home.
The principal called me. He knew me. I had brought so many trophies and so many cups from all over the country, from all the universities, for debating, for eloquence competitions ... He was very happy that I had made his college famous nationwide.
He said, "I'm in a difficulty. Why are you irritating that old man? He is our oldest professor, well educated; he has two Ph.D.'s, has been conferred D.Litt. recently by the university. He is a well-known scholar and we cannot lose him."
I said, "You can keep him, but you are being unfair and unjust because I have not done anything harmful to him. He is the professor of logic and if a professor of logic cannot argue with a student, then who is going to argue? The whole subject of logic is argument and sharpening of arguments, and I'm really doing my work as every student should do. The students are behaving like dodos; they don't bother about the subject. They have other interests -- somebody has a girlfriend, somebody has an interest in the movies -- there are a thousand and one things in the world. And they study only at the end of the year.
"And now, because questions have become stereotyped, the same questions are being repeated every year. Just read four years' question papers and that is enough -- prepare for twenty questions and you are going to find five questions from those twenty in your examination. There is no need to bother about the whole course because professors are lazy. Even to find a new question is difficult for them, so they just look at four or five year-old examinations questions and find questions -- maybe they rephrase them. That is their whole work.
"And in the market now examination keys -- which are a very profitable business -- have appeared. Some retired professor knows perfectly well what is going to come up in the examination. He takes ten years of questions in his book and gives the answers to each point. You just purchase a key book. There is no need to go into the originals because that is a difficult task.
"And if you give the answers, nobody bothers whether you know it or whether you have crammed it. Those keys are made by retired professors in such a way that the answer is very small and can be crammed, so no intelligence is needed.
"I was trying ...because I have not come to the college just to sit there. I am not interested in degrees -- my interest is to sharpen my intelligence."
The principal said, "I can understand you, but still I will have to expel you. It is unjust and I am feeling guilty because I cannot let that professor leave. Without him, our whole logic department will collapse. He is the most senior professor and he's a very stubborn man. If he has said that he will not come unless you are expelled, he will not come. But knowing the injustice ...you have not been doing anything harmful, you just don't have a teacher of a real caliber and genius.
"He is a mediocre man. He can write Ph.D. theses and he can be awarded a D.Litt. for his services, but he is not a genius. That I know. So I will expel you because he will insist on seeing that your name is there on the notice board and that you are expelled. But I will make arrangements for you in another college. I will phone the principal."
I said, "I don't want to create any trouble for your institution, or for you, or for the old professor. I have no antagonism towards him -- I just feel a great pity. You make arrangements, but it is not going to be easy because this situation which has been happening for eight months, has become the talk of all the colleges in the university. Every principal knows ...."
He tried. He phoned one principal who was very close to him and the principal said, "Just forgive me. You are sending a trouble to us because you cannot manage it."
He tried a few other colleges, because the city I was in was one of the most significant cities as far as education was concerned; there were twenty colleges in all. He called a few other principals, and everybody said, "You can send anybody else, but we have heard about that student. And you are the oldest college and you have the best professors. If they are ready to resign because of him, what will happen to our professors who are not so senior, who are not so experienced?"
The principal was in a dilemma. And I was sitting there listening to all this phone talk. I told him, "You will not be able to manage. I will manage myself. You just give me expulsion orders and I will manage."
And I arranged with one principal to enter his college on the condition that I would never come to the college. I would pay the fee but I would never come to the college. I would go to the library but not to the classes. I would not attend the classes, so no problem would arise. And the principal would see to it that I got the right attendance necessary for appearing at the examination. I said, "That's a great arrangement. In fact, I have always wanted it."
For two years I never went to a single class for a single day. But those two years were of great importance. I settled into the library as deeply as possible. Before the library would open, I was there and only when the librarian pushed me out because it was being closed did I reluctantly leave.
The same is the situation with Bodhidharma, who belongs to the particular school of Mahayana. Because China -- the whole of China -- does not have any other school except Mahayana. And to tell the Mahayana people that you can become enlightened just like a click of the fingers ...it is not possible for them to believe, because Buddha himself said he had to do hard work for three asankhyas -- innumerable ages -- before he became enlightened. But Bodhidharma knew from his own experience that he had become enlightened without any austerity, without any discipline, without going through fasting, without doing prayers, rituals. He became enlightened just by becoming aware of his mind.
But to say that Gautam Buddha is wrong .... He would be surrounded by the whole country which believed that Gautam Buddha cannot be wrong. And in actual fact, for six years after leaving his palace, Gautam Buddha did everything, and all the teachers finally felt that he was a far greater soul than they themselves were. And they said to him, "Forgive us. All that we knew, we have told you. More than that is beyond our capacity. But we will suggest a greater teacher to you."
For six years he went from one teacher to another teacher, and finally, the greatest teacher of those days said to him, "You are wasting your time. No teacher can help you. It is time enough that you should be on your own .... Just watch your mind. I don't have any other teaching for you."
Tired of those six years of continuous discipline .... It was a full moon night. He had been was refused by the teacher and told, "Just watch your mind. There is no discipline for you; those disciplines are for mediocre minds. They are compromises, according to everybody's capacity -- a certain ritual to console him that he is doing some work for enlightenment. Nothing will satisfy you unless enlightenment happens."
So he went away. A full moon night -- he had left the teacher just a few days before. And he was sitting under the tree by the side of Niranjana in Bihar. In India even trees are worshiped -- and I don't see anything wrong in it, because a tree is also a living being and they are very nice people. They don't do any harm to anybody. A woman had been a worshiper of that Bodhi tree. And she had told the God of the tree that if she became pregnant -- because for years she had not been getting pregnant -- if she became pregnant she would bring sweets, fruits and flowers as a present to the god of the tree.
And on the full moon night, she came. She had become pregnant and when she became absolutely certain and the physicians had said, "You are pregnant," she brought delicious food, sweets, flowers. Her name was Sujata. It is a significant name in the history of Gautam Buddha.
And he was hungry, because he had been fasting for months -- very hungry. But he was a beautiful man, a prince, and because of the hunger he had become almost pale. And in the full moon night, he looked as if he were the god of the tree who had come out.
The woman could not believe it -- she was a villager, and she really thought that the god of the tree had come out to receive her presents. She fell to his feet and offered him all that she had brought.
This was the first time in those six years that he had taken a full meal. And that too, in the night. It is not allowed for ascetics to eat at night, but now he was no longer an ascetic.
When the teacher had said, "All that you have to do is to watch," he dropped all disciplines, all asceticism. He had renounced his kingdom; now he renounced his renunciation too. For the first time he was perfectly relaxed. He ate well, and after six years he slept for the first time without any tension. There was no ambition. There was no desire. There was nowhere to go, nothing to be searched.
In this relaxed state, even in his sleep he became aware that he was watching his mind; just a small flame of awareness was there. Although the body was asleep, the mind was asleep, something beyond was alert.
And in the morning when he opened his eyes, the last star was disappearing. And the actual fact was that as the last star was disappearing, he also disappeared as an ego, as a personality. The enlightenment was sudden. Suddenly he saw his authentic being.
Now the problem arose: Mahayanists say that this sudden experiment happened because of those six years of continuous austerity -- this is gradual enlightenment.
And there are people, a certain school, who believe in sudden enlightenment. They say it had nothing to do with those six years. If he had stopped at five years, the experience would have happened. And if somebody had told him the very first day, and if he had had the intelligence to understand it, it would have happened the very first day he left the palace.
Those six years are not a cause for the effect of enlightenment. Enlightenment cannot have a cause. Their reasoning is very clear. Bodhidharma has said in the sutras that enlightenment has no cause. Then the question of millions of ages and arduous effort is meaningless.
Enlightenment is always sudden.
If it is not sudden, it is not because the nature of enlightenment is gradual. It is because your mind leaves you gradually. You are not ready to take the risk wholesale. You take the risk retail, inch by inch, part by part -- the American way, in installments. A little bit you lose today, a little bit tomorrow, a little bit .... It takes time because you are not ready to drop the mind in its totality, in this very moment. You say, "I will do it slowly ...tomorrow, then the day after tomorrow. What is the hurry?"
So there are these two schools: the gradual school of enlightenment which appeals to many people because they don't have the guts to drop the mind immediately; and the sudden school of enlightenment which belongs only to people who have the heart of a lion, who can simply risk everything.
I remember a story about a Japanese actor. He was very famous in America and he earned millions of dollars. He wanted to return home, he had earned enough. But before returning home, he thought it would be better to go around the world. Then he would not have to leave his home again. Then he wanted to rest. But first he wanted to see every beautiful place around the world.
He reached Paris. His guide took him to many places and then he said, "Would you like to see a casino?" The actor said, "Certainly, I want to see everything. In Paris, not to see a casino is missing much." Casinos are gambling places and France has the best casinos.
And as he entered the casino and he saw people putting up hundreds of dollars, thousands of dollars ...and he got interested in the game. He risked all his millions of dollars that he had earned in America -- just on one stake, not gradually.
Even the owner of the casino was afraid. "What to do with this man? If he wins, my whole casino is gone. A strange fellow!" He had been in the business for so long but he had never seen a man putting millions of dollars at risk, at stake.
But there was no way to refuse; it was not possible to refuse. You have to accept the stake and fortunately for the casino owner, the Japanese lost. He lost every single dollar that he had earned and was hoping to live a retired life on. He had nothing.
He went into his hotel and went to sleep. In the morning he saw in a newspaper that a Japanese had committed suicide by jumping from a forty-story building, and naturally it was thought that it must be the same Japanese who had lost millions of dollars in the casino. So they mentioned that it seemed that it was the same Japanese who had lost millions of dollars the previous night and he had not even a single dollar left for himself.
He read the news and he laughed and the owner of the hotel read the news and he said, "He was in my hotel. How did he reach the other hotel? He was a famous name." The Japanese rushed to his room and he was laughing so madly. The owner asked, "Why are you laughing?"
He said, "I am laughing because I am alive and this newspaper said I have committed suicide by jumping from a hotel. Some other Japanese has committed suicide." And it was a very logical conclusion by the journalist that it must be the same famous Japanese actor from America. The body was so distorted, so broken in pieces that there was no way to find out who the man was.
The owner of the hotel asked him, "It is strange. You lost all your life's earnings and still you slept well?" He said, "It does not matter. I enjoyed the thrill for a moment -- this way or that. And I enjoyed the owner of the casino trembling. As far as money is concerned, I can go back and earn again. That is not a problem. It was not stolen money, I earned it."
The owner said to him, "But you could have played the way all gamblers play -- small sums. You could have played the whole night. Why did you stake everything?"
And I was reading in his autobiography that he said, "I belong to the sudden enlightenment school. I don't believe in gradual installments. If you have to do something, do it totally and intensely. If you don't want to do it, then don't unnecessarily befool yourself by doing it partially."
Bodhidharma is authentically a man of sudden enlightenment. But he was initiated by the woman, Pragyatara. She was a Mahayanist and she sent him to China to help the growing religion there. The religion had grown like wildfire -- just in six hundred years. It reached China at the time of Jesus Christ, five hundred years after Gautam Buddha. And after six hundred years, there were thirty thousand Buddhist temples and two million Buddhist monks in China, and that is not including the laymen.
Millions and millions of people, because they were really hungry .... Confucius had made them so hungry for religion because in Confucius' mind there was no soul, no religion. It is because of Confucius that China turned to communism because Confucius' mind was very close to that of Karl Marx; there was not much difference. Both believed that there is no God, there is no soul, and all religions are useless. Both believed that consciousness is just a by-product of five elements getting together, and death is the end. So there is no question of good actions or bad actions.
Confucius had been such a dominant figure, such an influential figure that the whole soul of the Chinese people was hungry. There was an appetite which the Buddhist monks fulfilled. There was a gap so there was no conflict, no quarrel. The Buddhists were accepted without any struggle against anybody.
And Pragyatara sent Bodhidharma because up to then, no enlightened men had gone to China. Many scholars had gone -- thousand of scholars -- who were trying to translate Buddhist scriptures into Chinese. But they were only scholars, and Pragyatara thought China needed to see an enlightened man. It deserved it. In just six hundred years, great work had been done -- almost the whole country had gone from Confucius to Gautam Buddha. Pragyatara told Bodhidharma, "You have to go," and he went there. But his own enlightenment was sudden and in China the school that had spread to the people was Mahayana, which believed in gradual enlightenment.
This is the dilemma. The students are raising the question: Buddha says one thing and you are saying just the opposite. WHY DO YOU NOW SAY THAT SIMPLY BEHOLDING THE MIND AND OVERCOMING THE THREE POISONS IS LIBERATION? You are making it too simple, saying that one can do it now. Then what about Gautam Buddha's struggle for three innumerable kalpas ...?
But perhaps even Bodhidharma is not aware about the distinction that I have made, that just before his enlightenment Gautam Buddha dropped all disciplines. That would have been the right answer: Gautam Buddha may have struggled for three or thirty innumerable kalpas -- it was just a dream, and when the dream is broken it always happens in a single moment. Just a single moment before, you were asleep; after a single moment, you are awake. And when you are awake all dreams which were appearing so real, disappear.
This would have been the right answer, but it would not have fitted with the Mahayana school. That's why he goes on creating theological smoke around the question again.
THE WORDS OF THE BUDDHA ARE TRUE. BUT THE THREE ASANKHYA KALPAS REFER TO THE THREE POISONED STATES OF MIND.
That is not true. He actually refers to innumerable lives in which he has struggled to achieve buddhahood and finally, in the last life, he has achieved it. Now Bodhidharma is trying to somehow make a plausible answer.
WHAT WE CALL ASANKHYA IN SANSKRIT, YOU CALL COUNTLESS. WITHIN THESE THREE POISONED STATES OF MIND ARE COUNTLESS EVIL THOUGHTS.
Now this is all nonsense, because it is again not relevant to the question.
AND EVERY THOUGHT LASTS A KALPA.
That is even worse than nonsense; it is absurd! -- and you know it. A thought does not last even for an hour. Just try for any thought to remain in your mind for one hour continuously and you will be surprised -- it goes on slipping out of the mind.
Mind is in a constant traffic. You cannot stand in the middle of the traffic, your thoughts are moving faster than anything. And one kalpa is a very long time. A thought does not remain even for a few seconds. Your mind is continuously a flux; it is just like a river.
Heraclitus says, "You cannot step in the same river twice because it going so fast. By the time you step twice, it is other water. It is the same river just for the name's sake, but the water that you have stepped in for the first time is no longer there."
I go a little further than Heraclitus. I say, "You cannot step even once in the same river, because when your feet touch the upper part of the water, the lower part is rushing by. As your feet go a little deeper, the lower part and the upper part is rushing by. By the time you reach the bottom, everything has changed from the time when you first touched the surface of the water. You have not stepped in the same water, because every second new water is coming in and the old water is going out. Heraclitus is not aware that even stepping once in the same water is impossible. Twice is too much.
The same is the situation with the human mind: it is just a flux. Hundreds of thoughts queuing and going -- relevant, irrelevant, consistent, inconsistent. But he is trying to make some sense of Buddha's statement.
SUCH AN INFINITY IS WHAT THE BUDDHA MEANT BY THE THREE ASANKHYA KALPAS.
No, he actually meant what the words say. Bodhidharma is imposing his own idea on it, just to dilute it, just to bring it closer to his sudden enlightenment idea.
In his place I would have said, "Gautam Buddha is wrong. What he is saying about the three innumerable ages must have been said before he became enlightened. It is not a statement made after his enlightenment. If he had ever said anything like that, it must have been before his enlightenment."
Even before his enlightenment he had five followers. Seeing him -- a king and a perfect ascetic -- five brahmin seekers had become his followers. They left because he accepted the food from Sujata, at night.
And the word SUJATA, has great implications. It means "well born," born into a very high family. Now anybody who is really born into a high family will not have that name. Sujata must have been a sudra, an untouchable woman. This is how the human mind and human psychology functions. If she cannot belong to a high caste, at least she can have a beautiful name which means that she is well born. Her name indicates that she certainly, belongs to a very low strata of the society.
Seeing that Buddha was accepting food from a sudra woman -- he was not even asking, "To what class do you belong?" and in the night he was eating joyously -- all the five disciples left him immediately. "He is a fraud, a fake. We have been deceived. He is not an ascetic at all."
Buddha may have said something like that to those five disciples, but he was not enlightened then. And one has to remember that any statement which has been made by Buddha before enlightenment should not be taken into account at all. It means nothing. Only that which he said after enlightenment has significance.
Bodhidharma could have explained it very easily, but he is not as courageous as he has been believed for centuries to be. He cannot say the words of the Buddha are not true. He is trying to polish them and somehow dilute them and bring them closer to his own understanding.
BUT THE GREAT BODHISATTVAS HAVE ONLY ACHIEVED ENLIGHTENMENT BY OBSERVING THE THREE SETS OF PRECEPTS AND BY PRACTICING THE SIX PARAMITAS. NOW YOU TELL DISCIPLES MERELY TO BEHOLD THE MIND. HOW CAN ANYONE REACH ENLIGHTENMENT WITHOUT CULTIVATING THE RULES OF DISCIPLINE?
He is really putting the disciples in a dilemma -- and these are their last questions. Bodhidharma says that no discipline is needed, no austerity is needed. All that is needed is an awareness of your mind. And I agree with him absolutely. That's what brings enlightenment.
A man who is unconscious can discipline himself. He can shave just like the Buddha ...he can shave his head, he can eat only once in twenty-four hours, he can have only three sets of clothes -- not more than that -- but he will not become enlightened by this. If this were so, then all poor people who don't have even three sets of clothes, who sometimes have to go to bed without eating anything, would have become enlightened.
I have known people who have gone to sleep tying a brick on their stomach so they don't feel that their stomach is empty. Such poverty exists in many parts of this country. Would these people have become buddhas? -- no. Enlightenment has nothing to do with poverty, fasting, discipline, religious rituals.
There is only a single way to enlightenment and that is creating more and more awareness about your acts, about your thoughts, about your emotions.
Bodhidharma could have said that exactly, but this is the trouble when you belong to an organization, when you belong to a certain philosophy, when you belong to a certain system of belief, when you are not a master of yourself, when you worship somebody else as a master ...then this kind of dilemma is bound to happen. You have lost your individuality in a way. You have to support Gautam Buddha even if it goes against your own understanding.
Bodhidharma says: THE THREE SETS OF PRECEPTS ARE FOR OVERCOMING THE THREE POISONED STATES OF MIND. WHEN YOU OVERCOME THESE POISONS, YOU CREATE THREE SETS OF LIMITLESS VIRTUE. A SET GATHERS THINGS TOGETHER -- IN THIS CASE, COUNTLESS GOOD THOUGHTS THROUGHOUT YOUR MIND. AND THE SIX PARAMITAS ARE FOR PURIFYING THE SIX SENSES. WHAT WE CALL PARAMITAS, YOU CALL MEANS TO THE OTHER SHORE. BY PURIFYING YOUR SIX SENSES OF THE DUST OF SENSATION, THE PARAMITAS FERRY YOU ACROSS THE RIVER OF AFFLICTION TO THE SHORE OF ENLIGHTENMENT.
Can't you see that the answer has not even a far-off relationship to the question? It is not even a distant cousin.
Bodhidharma could not manage ...to simply say the truth would have been the right thing: "Whether it goes against Buddha, or Krishna, or Christ does not matter -- I have to be my own truth. If it goes against somebody else's truth, that is his problem, it is not my problem."
Truth has beauty when it arises in you, but if you are somehow trying to fix it into a certain system created by somebody else, you start distorting the truth. And to me that is one of the greatest crimes.
The question was simply significant, but the answer is not. The answer is right in some other context but this place is not the place for this answer. He should have said that for all those three innumerable kalpas and the disciplines and austerities, Buddha lived in dreams.
But perhaps he could not say this to the Buddhists of China, because he was sent from India to make Buddhism more solid and if he started speaking in this way, how was he going to make Buddhism more solid? He started compromising. And the moment somebody starts compromising, he loses touch with the truth.
Truth is an uncompromising experience.
ACCORDING TO THE SUTRAS, THE THREE SETS OF PRECEPTS ARE -- the disciples are asking again -- "I VOW TO PUT AN END TO ALL EVILS. I VOW TO CULTIVATE ALL VIRTUES. AND I VOW TO LIBERATE ALL BEINGS." BUT NOW YOU SAY THEY ARE ONLY FOR CONTROLLING THE THREE POISONED STATES OF MIND. ISN'T THIS CONTRARY TO THE MEANING OF THE SCRIPTURES?
It is, but Bodhidharma is not capable of saying so. In fact it is said that Gautam Buddha made these three vows: to put an end to all evil, to cultivate all virtues and to liberate all beings -- but this was before he became enlightened. Hence, it has no value at all.
After his enlightenment, he knew that all these vows were made in a state of dreaming. And what you decide in a dream, you are not supposed to follow when you wake up. You may have been flying in the dream -- just like any bird across the sky -- but when you wake up, you know it was a dream and you don't insist that you really flew like a bird.
These three vows were certainly made by Buddha, but they were made before his enlightenment. It is true nobody has asked Buddha, "What happened to your vows?" But Bodhidharma is being asked. He should have made it clear that they were made in dreams and dreams don't matter at all. What matters is the awakened consciousness -- and then Buddha did not make any vows.
But instead of that, he goes on saying:
THE SUTRAS OF THE BUDDHA ARE TRUE.
But you can see, even as he says THE SUTRAS OF THE BUDDHA ARE TRUE, he has lost the authority and the strength that comes from sincerity, that comes from your own experience of truth. He has become mild.
BUT LONG AGO, WHEN THAT GREAT BODHISATTVA WAS CULTIVATING THE SEED OF ENLIGHTENMENT, IT WAS TO COUNTER THE THREE POISONS THAT HE MADE HIS THREE VOWS.
He goes on again and again, bringing those three poisons to his help.
PRACTICING MORAL PROHIBITIONS TO COUNTER THE POISON OF GREED, HE VOWED TO PUT AN END TO ALL EVILS. PRACTICING MEDITATION TO COUNTER THE POISON OF ANGER, HE VOWED TO CULTIVATE ALL VIRTUES. AND PRACTICING WISDOM TO COUNTER THE POISON OF DELUSION, HE VOWED TO LIBERATE ALL BEINGS. BECAUSE HE PERSEVERED IN THESE THREE PURE PRACTICES OF MORALITY, MEDITATION AND WISDOM, HE WAS ABLE TO OVERCOME THE THREE POISONS AND REACH ENLIGHTENMENT. BY OVERCOMING THE THREE POISONS, HE WIPED OUT EVERYTHING SINFUL AND THUS PUT AN END TO EVIL. BY OBSERVING THE THREE SETS OF PRECEPTS, HE DID NOTHING BUT GOOD AND THUS CULTIVATED VIRTUE. AND BY PUTTING AN END TO EVIL AND CULTIVATING VIRTUE, HE CONSUMMATED ALL PRACTICES, BENEFITED HIMSELF AS WELL AS OTHERS AND RESCUED MORTALS EVERYWHERE. THUS, HE LIBERATED BEINGS.
He is not being authentic. He is simply trying somehow to manage the answer. The answer is not a spontaneous response. It is clever, intellectual. It may have satisfied his disciples; it cannot satisfy me.
I am nobody's disciple. I don't belong to any belief system. I love people from all over the world and I never compare them. They are all unique: a Zarathustra is a Zarathustra, a Mahavira is a Mahavira, a Buddha is a Buddha, a Jesus is a Jesus, a Moses is a Moses ...they are so unique that you should not make one of them a criterion that everybody else has to fit with.
Bodhidharma himself belongs to the same category, but because of his compromise, he falls down. He could not maintain his uniqueness. He remains a disciple of Gautam Buddha -- and how can a disciple say that the words of the master are not right?
It is a unique opportunity for you to listen to a man who has no master, and who has a tremendous respect for truth -- whether it comes from Zarathustra, or Lao Tzu, or Buddha, or Moses, or Jesus, or Mohammed. If it is truth which rings bells in my heart, I am in absolute support of it. But if it is not true, I know my heart. The bells don't ring and I immediately know something is wrong.
Bodhidharma is trying to pacify, console. He is no longer interested in truth. He is more interested in spreading the message of Buddha, and that's where he loses his uniqueness; otherwise he is as unique a person as Gautam Buddha himself.
I cannot conceive of what happened to him why he could not say directly, "These words are not true. They are not true because they don't resonate with my being." But this is what happens when you are toeing the line of a certain party -- political, religious, social. Then you have to be in agreement with everything, without choice.
The Buddhists were very happy with Bodhidharma because he established the discipline of Buddha in China, gave it a very solid foundation, and spread the message -- not only to China, but from China to Taiwan, to Korea, to Japan.
He did a great job, but he fell down from the heights. He could have remained there if he had said the truth exactly and explained to the people, in a very simple way, "These are statements made by Buddha before his enlightenment, and anything he said before enlightenment is immaterial. To me, Buddha's statements after his enlightenment are pure gold."
I don't think Bodhidharma would have hurt the feelings of people. Perhaps he would have created a precedent for other enlightened people: You need not agree with everything. You have certainly an obligation to accept the truth from whichever direction it comes, but you don't have any obligation to agree with any untruth, any fiction created by the priests who know nothing of the truth.
He did the job for which he was sent, but he lost something beautiful in his own being. To me that is more important than the whole of China becoming Buddhist. A single individual in crystal-clear truthfulness is more important than millions of people fast asleep.
Next: Chapter 18: Wakefulness is awareness
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