You need to be reminded about that story. Bodhidharma is not the founder of Zen. The real founder is Mahakashyapa. But because he never spoke, people have always forgotten him; he has fallen into shadows, but he was a tremendously beautiful man, a man of immense grace. And how he became the founder of Zen is something to be remembered.
One day, a poor man in Vaishali – he was shoemaker – found in his pond, a lotus flower out of season. He was very happy that he could sell it for a good price because it was not the season, and it was a beautiful lotus flower. He took the flower, and as he was going towards the palace he saw the richest man of the city coming towards him in his golden chariot. Seeing the beautiful lotus flower, the super-rich man stopped the chariot and asked Sudas, “How much will you take for your untimely lotus flower?”
Poor Sudas could not conceive how much. He said, “Whatever you can give will be enough for me. I am a poor man.” The rich man said, “Perhaps you don’t know but I am going to see Gautam Buddha who is staying outside the city in a mango grove, and I would like this untimely lotus flower to put at his feet. Even he will be surprised with such a gift. I will give you five hundred gold coins.”
Sudas could not believe it. He had never dreamt that he would ever have five hundred gold coins. But just then the king’s chariot stopped, and the king said to Sudas, “Whatever that rich man is giving you, I will give you four times more. Don’t sell it, wait.”
Sudas could not believe what was happening. Five hundred gold coins, four times. Two thousand gold coins for a single flower.
He asked the king, “I don’t understand. What is the reason why you are so interested?
But the rich man was not to be defeated so easily. He was richer than the king; in fact the king owed much money to him. He said, “It is not right of you. You are the king, but right now we are competitors. I will give four times more than what the king is giving.” And this way they went on four times, four times … and Sudas lost the track of how much money. The poor man did not know much arithmetic either; it was going beyond his capacity to count. But one thing he suddenly understood. And he stopped both the men and said, “Wait, I am not going to sell it.” They were both shocked and said, “What is the problem? Do you want more?”
He said, “I don’t know how much the price has gone to. And I don’t want more. I simply don’t want to sell it for the simple reason that both of you are going to give it to Gautam Buddha. I don’t know anything about him, I have just heard his name. If the man is such that you are fighting to give any amount of money, then I will not miss the chance. I will present the lotus flower to Gautam Buddha. Let him be doubly surprised.” From a poor man, who was being offered uncountable money … But he refused.
Sudas went. The king and the rich man had reached there before and they had already told the story: “We have been shocked by a shoemaker; we have been defeated. He refused to sell it at any price. I was ready to offer him my whole treasury.” And then Sudas, walking, arrived, touched Gautam Buddha’s feet, and offered his flower at his feet.
Gautam Buddha said, “Sudas, you should have accepted; they were giving you so much money. I cannot give you anything.”
There were tears in the eyes of Sudas, and he said, “If you can just hold my flower in your hand, it is enough. It is far greater than the whole kingdom. It is far greater than super-rich man’s whole treasury. I am poor, but I am perfectly okay; I earn my livelihood. There is no need for me to be rich. But it will be a historical event remembered for centuries and centuries – as long as man remembers you, Sudas will be remembered and his flower will be remembered. You just take it in your hand.”
Buddha took the flower in his hand…and this was the time of the morning when he used to give his morning sermon. Everybody was waiting for him to start but rather than starting the morning sermon, he simply went on looking at the lotus flower.
Minutes passed, one hour passed. People started becoming restless, thinking, “What has happened? This flower seems to be something magical that he is simply looking at the flower.”
At that moment Mahakashyapa, one of the disciples of Gautam Buddha – who had never spoken, and who had not been mentioned before this or again after this, in any scriptures – laughed. And Gautam Buddha called Mahakashyapa, and gave the flower to him.
And he said, “It is not only the flower that I am giving to you, I am transmitting to you my whole light, my whole fragrance, my whole awakening. It is a transmission in silence; this flower is only symbolic.”
This is beginning of Zen.
People asked Mahakashyapa, “What happened? Although we were present and we were eyewitnesses, we could not see anything except the flower being given to you. And you touched the feet of Gautam Buddha and went back to your seat again and closed your eyes. What happened?”
Mahakashyapa is reported to have said only one thing: “You ask my master. While he is alive, I have no right to answer.” And Gautam Buddha said, “This is a new beginning, of transferring without words my whole experience. One just has to be receptive. And Mahakashyapa, by his laughter, showed his receptivity. You don’t know why he laughed. He laughed because in that moment, he suddenly looked into himself and he found that he is also a Buddha. And I offered the flower as a recognition – ‘I accept your awakening.’”
This man Mahakashyapa was the founder of Zen – or this situation between Mahakashyapa and Gautam Buddha is the beginning of the river of Zen. But Bodhidharma was such a strong individual that he has almost become the founder, although he came one thousand years later than Mahakashyapa. But he is immensely articulate. He can say things which cannot be said. He can speak the unspeakable. He can find ways and means and devices to bring you back home, to awaken you to your self-nature.
Mahakashyapa only realized his own nature. Nothing was given to him; it was only a recognition from the master. The master never gives anything to the disciple except the final recognition. The disciple already has everything. He just has to be tricked in some way to look into himself. All the meditation are simply arbitrary methods to look into yourself. Once you look into yourself the master can give you the recognition.Tags: Zen Zen Stories