This week’s readings are Luke 23:36-43, and Hyang Gok’s “Bodhidharma’s Coming to China.”
Luke 24:36-43 (REB)
As they were talking about all this, there he was, standing among them a. Startled and terrified, they thought they were seeing a ghost. But he said, ‘Why are you so perturbed? Why do doubts arise in your minds? Look at my hands and feet. It is I myself. Touch me and see; no ghost has flesh and bones as you can see that I have a. ’ They were still incredulous, still astounded, for it seemed too good to be true. So he asked them, ‘Have you anything here to eat? ’ They offered him a piece of fish they had cooked, which he took and ate before their eyes
Hyang Gok’s “Bodhidharma’s Coming to China” (from The Whole World Is A Single Flower)
When someone asked Zen Master Hyang Gok, “What is the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming to China?” he answered, “Make a mud horse in the fire.”
1. What is the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming to China?
2. How do you make a mud horse in the fire?
COMMENTARY: Bodhidharma had two eyes, two ears and one mouth. Three years after he died he was alive again. See his body clearly. Hear his sound clearly.
This week we encounter Jesus and Bodhidharma, two central characters in Christianity and Zen, coming back to life. Jesus died and came to life again on the third day; Bodhidharma died and was seen alive three years later wearing only one shoe. While the death and resurrection of Jesus is central to the Christian story, Bodhidharma’s return to life is much less important to his place in Zen. Instead he is remembered as the first patriarch of Chinese Buddhism, the one who brought what became Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism to China. His memory is found in a classic kong-an which we find posed to Hyang Gok in our Zen reading from today: “What is the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming to China?”
The kong-an “what is the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming to China” is a great model for asking similar questions about Jesus. We might ask “What is the meaning of Jesus’ coming toJerusalem?”, “What is the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection?” or “What is the meaning of Jesus eating broiled fish?” There are many ways of approaching these questions, including academically, theologically, and pastorally, as well as from the head or from the heart. These kinds of responses usually require reflection and thinking – in other words, my go-to ways fo responding as a white, male, Protestant, academically trained Christian.
Yet as a Zen person I desire to engage these questions from a place of aliveness in the moment, an approach I am learning through kong-an practice. Zen Master Seung Sahn’s commentary on today’s kong-an is a key to responding to these questions about Jesus. Seung Sahn says “After three years he [Bodhidharma] was alive again. See his body clearly. Hear his sound clearly.” Zen Master Seung Sahn tells us we can see Bodhidharma’s body clearly, that we can hear his sound clearly in this very moment. In the same way we can see Christ’s body clearly, we can hear his sound clearly in this very moment. Today as I read this scripture and ponder why Bodhidharma came to China, I wonder the following things of Jesus:
1. What is the meaning of Jesus coming to Jerusalem?
2. Jesus returned from the dead. How could he eat a piece of broiled cod?
3. What does Jesus’ body look like?
4. What does Christ sound like?
These questions can open us up to this moment, to God and the living Christ, if we allow them. Why did Jesus come to Jerusalem? Don’t think! Just answer. But don’t be too happy with your answer right now, because tomorrow the answer is completely new. Welcome to the resurrection of Jesus!