The Bodhidharma Anthology - The Earliest Records of Zen by: Jeffrey L. Broughton
In the early part of this century, the discovery of a walled-up cave in northwest China led to the retrieval of a lost early Ch'an literature of the T'ang dynasty (618-907).
The Bodhidharma Anthology is a collection of texts attributed to Bodhidharma, and to his immediate disciples. The collection contains seven distinct pieces: a brief biography of Bodhidharma, a short doctrinal treatise (the "Two Entrances"), two letters, and three lengthy "records" containing expositions and exchanges between different monks on various doctrinal subjects.
These texts are generally considered the earliest Ch'an writings. Jeffrey L. Broughton provides an annotated translation of the Bodhidharma Anthology along with a commentary that provides detailed study of its nature, content, and background.
Most Zen students are familiar with the traditional story of Bodhidharma, the ‘first patriarch’ of the Ch’an lineage in China. This is recounted in the Biography of The Bodhidharma Anthology. Bodhidharma received the ‘storehouse of the true Dharma eye’ from the twenty-seventh patriarch Prajnatara, who was of East Indian decent and travels to South China some sixty-seven years later.
He meets the great Buddhist emperor Wu, who asks him about the highest meaning of noble truth (arya-sata) to which Bodhidharma responds: “There is no noble truth.” The emperor then asks “Who is standing before me?” Bodhidharma replies “I do not know.” The emperor then asks how much karmic merit he has accumulated from building temples and ordaining many monks. Bodhidharma replies, “None whatsoever.”
Leaving the emperor’s court Bodhidharma crosses the Yangtze River and ends up on Mount Sung where he spends nine years ‘facing the wall.” Hui-k’o came across Bodhidharma but received no reply to his questions and stood in the snow outside the cave begging to be taught. After Hui-k’o cut off his left arm he was finally accepted by the master. Hui-k’o pleaded with Bodhidharma to pacify his troubled mind. “Bring me your mind,” said Bodhidharma, “and I will pacify it for you.” “I have searched for it and cannot find it,” replied Hiu-k’o, upon which Bodhidharma retorted, “There, I have pacified your mind.” At these words Hui-k’o has a great awakening.
Huik’o asks the master if his teaching encompasses any written documentation. Bodhidharma replies that his teachings is a heart to heart transmission and does not rely on the written word.
The doctrinal treatise entitled "Two Entrances" outlines the teachings of Bodhidharma; the practice of ‘Quieting of the Mind’ as wall-examining and introduces the "two entrances" and "four practices' which involve the recognition of the workings of karma and the cultivation of non-attachment.
These are followed by texts 3 and 4, two letters of unknown origin that briefly discuss the importance of cultivation and of non-duality.
The Bodhidharma anthology is especially important for its rendering of the three Records (texts 5-7), which contain some of the earliest Zen dialogues and constitute the real beginnings of Zen literature.
These texts contain sermons and dialogues, including sayings attributed to Bodhidharma and his disciples.
Broughton utilizes a Tibetan translation of the Bodhidharma Anthology as an informative gloss on the Chinese original; thus placing the anthology within the context of the Tun-huang Zen manuscripts as a whole.
In the Records, we encounter the sayings of Master Yuan, an otherwise unknown master. Master Yuan consistently criticizes reliance on the Dharma, on teachers, on meditative practice, and on scripture, all of which lead to self-deception and confusion, he says. According to Master Yuan, if one has spirit and does not seek anything, including the teachings of Buddhism, then one will attain the quietude of liberation. We may recognise this spirit as the essence of daily life practice in the Zen Tradition.
The Bodhidharma Anthology - The Earliest Records of Zen by:
Jeffrey L. Broughton
University of California Press (1999)