by Miriam Levering, from "Lineage or Family Tree?" in|
INNOVATIVE BUDDHIST WOMEN:
Swimming Against the Stream, ed. by Karma Lekshe Tsomo
As the stories of Bodhidharma's transmission to his disciples were retold in the Five Dynasties and the Sung, in the context of the ideal that Bodhidharma and the other early patriarchs should each have a single legitimate heir, Bodhidharma's other students were demoted so that Bodhidharma too should have only one heir, the monk Hui-k'o.
As every student of Soto Zen knows, Dogen had an immense belief in mind-to-mind transmission — an esoteric transmission, from teacher to student from Dharma-father to Dharma-son, generation to generation — as a guarantee of the authenticity of his claim to have inherited the Buddha's mind. Yet he was uninterested in preserving the conception of awakening that underlay the notion that Bodhidharma had only one heir. In a number of places* in his sermons and other writings he brought up the story of Bodhidharma and his four disciples, including the nun Ts'ung-chi [Jp. Soji], and interpreted it quite differently from the way it was apparently interpreted in China. All of Bodhidharma's students who were asked by him to express what they had learned, including Ts'ung-chi,** expressed awakened understanding.
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*See the koan text here. In addition, a variation of the Bodhidarma koan, along with a capping verse, appears
in Dogen's Eihei Koroku (v.1.46), as well as EK 7, and in Dogen's Osaku Sendaba.
**The nun's response regarding what she had realized was:
"As I now understand things, it is like Ananda’s
catching sight of Akshobya’s Buddha Land. Once seen, it is not seen again."