‘Zazen becomes our daily life. It’s certainly not a matter of remaining frozen indefinitely in zazen. Even Bodhidharma didn’t do that. In his case, the legend has outstripped the historical truth. It’s truly stupid to imagine, as certain literary or mystical types do, that he stank because he remained nine years without budging. If he ate, he drank, and also went to the toilet. He probably read. He got dressed and he washed his clothing. Moreover, no organism could have endured nine years of immobility without atrophying or decaying. It’s obvious that he had other ways to spend his time. Zazen was the backbone of his life and his activities. He slept at night, did kinhin, prepared his food, and commenced again every day. He realized the zen of the Buddha in each of his acts.’ (Commentary on The Song Of Awakening)
Of course, according to some literary or mystical types, Bodhidharma also invented martial arts during his nine years at Shaolin by having the monks practise between sitting, and introduced tea to China by ripping off his eyelids (“Won’t be needing those while I sit constantly!”) and throwing them on the ground, whereupon they sprouted into tea bushes… Kodo Sawaki is never shy of puncturing that kind of thing.
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In other words Bohidarma was intensely passionate about staying awake. Yet he also had to clean his bowl after he finished eating.
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