Ask the Awakened

Since Bodhidharma, the recurrent menace that has overshadowed the Supreme Vehicle has been man's infatuation with himself. Whenever the succession of great Masters weakened in power or in quality the self-flattering mirror-polishing doctrine re-emerged.

Hui Neng and Shen Hui rescued the doctrine, but to-day it needs saving again, for, in the West at least, we are nearly all busy polishing our mirrors, or perfecting the hansom-cab as I have termed it, instead of understanding that neither the polisher nor mirror, perfector nor cab, has ever or could ever exist.

What we need is another Bodhidharma, firm as a rock, fierce as a tiger, merciless in his 'grandmotherly kindness', and not afraid to tell Emperors of China that they are talking through their hats. And if we cannot hope for a Bodhidharma, then at least we need desperately a Hui Neng. Otherwise, though Buddhism may survive, the Supreme Vehicle will surely be lost.*

And only the Supreme Vehicle ultimately matters, for self-exalting Buddhism is pseudo-Buddhism, for it is a contradiction in terms, a soothing syrup or a drug: only the Supreme Vehicle carries the full and final message of the Tathagata.

As long as we do not perceive the fatuity of a phenomenon telling itself how marvellous it is, we will never come to the knowledge of that which we are when we have understood that, as phenomena, we are not.

* Hubert Benoit describes Bodhidharma as 'an "Awakener", someone who comes, with kindness but also with implacable firmness, to rouse us from the dream in which we are living'.

(© RKP, 1963)

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