I had thought Bodhidharma, a great Buddhist teacher who may or may not be a myth, had slapped the emperor at one point and I was trying to look it up yesterday when I ran across a talk by Osho, the highly visible Sri Bagwan Rajneesh, a fellow who made quite a splash in the 1970's and 1980's and was brought down by his power-broker manipulations and depredations in Oregon.
Here was a man with dubious credentials telling a tale about someone who may or may not have existed and yet the tale I read rang utterly and intimately true. No matter if it is a lie or a subtle means of elevating the stock of the teller. Still, I was enfolded with agreement and relief and joy. "Here is the truth anyone might be wise to embrace," I thought. And the tale, told in something called "Bodhidharma, the Greatest Zen Master" is longer than what appears here in a sliced-and-diced form but I hope anyone can hear with their heart:
Emperor Wu said, "My mind is so full of thoughts. I have been trying to create some peace of mind, but I have failed and because of these thoughts and their noise, I cannot hear what you are calling the inner voice. I don't know anything about it."
Bodhidharma said, "Then, four o'clock in the morning, come alone without any bodyguards to the temple in the mountains where I am going to stay. And I will put your mind at peace, forever."
The emperor rats around in bed all night (much as anyone might rat around in bed) wondering whether he should go alone to meet this monk who had shown less-than-profound respect to an august monarch. Should he go, shouldn't he go ... ratting around in bed, ratting around in his mind. Naturally, he went -- how else could there be a story to tell?
Emperor Wu reached the temple at four o'clock, early in the morning in darkness, alone, and Bodhidharma was standing there with his staff, just on the steps, and he said, "I knew you would be coming, although the whole night you debated whether to go or not to go. What kind of an emperor are you -- so cowardly, being afraid of a poor monk, a poor beggar who has nothing in the world except this staff. And with this staff I am going to put your mind to silence."
Bodhidharma's instructions were simple:
"Sit down here in the courtyard of the temple." There was not a single man around. "Close your eyes, I am sitting in front of you with my staff. Your work is to catch hold of the mind. Just close your eyes and go inside looking for it -- where it is. The moment you catch hold of it, just tell me, `Here it is.' And my staff will do the remaining thing."
And after sitting there while with his eyes closed and the sun rising,
Emperor Wu said, "Without using your staff, you have pacified my mind completely. I don't have any mind and I have heard the inner voice about which you talked. Now I know whatever you said was right. You have transformed me without doing anything.
You are a rare disciple. I love you, I respect you, not as an emperor but as a man who has the courage just in a single sitting to bring so much awareness, so much light, that all darkness of the mind disappears.
And this is the point at which things start to get interesting. The emperor, as a means of expressing his delight and gratitude, tries to persuade Bodhidharma to come to the palace but Bodhidharma said,
That is not my place; you can see I am wild, I do things I myself don't know beforehand. I live moment to moment spontaneously, I am very unpredictable. I may create unnecessary trouble for you, your court, your people; I am not meant for palaces, just let me live in my wildness.
And there it is, without any baubles or bangles:
I love you.
I am wild.
Wild things do not deserve to be cloistered by palace or temple, whether within or without. In palaces and temples, whether within or without, wild things just cause problems. What is free and unpredictable deserves to roam and breathe, not as a rejection or as some iteration of a blessed state, but as a matter of simple fact. Wild things do not trouble others. They go about their business on quiet, sure feet. They neither cause nor subject others to regret.
Wild things R Us.
I love you
Let's not run around inviting Bodhidharma to our palace. :)