Master enters the cave.
Watching the wall for nine years,
The sage melds with Tao.
Bodhidharma, a Buddhist monk who lived in the 5th century, is a legendary figure credited with bringing the teachings of Buddhism from India to China. The spiritual Master is famous for meditating nine years facing a wall in a cave near the Shaolin Temple in northern China.
Myth and legend have sprung up regarding the 9-Year Wall-Staring Practice as a means of melding with Tao, or in Buddhist terms, reaching enlightenment. One variation on the story has Bodhidharma cutting off his eyelids in the seventh year of continuous practice because he was upset at having fallen asleep. Hmm....
Another legend tells of Dazu Huike, an aspiring student who later became Bodhidharma's disciple. Huike stood outside Bodhidharma's meditation cave in waist-deep snow waiting for the Master to accept him as a student. The Master told Huike he was not "ready" to receive the teachings due to excessive ego and a closed heart. Dazu persisted in his supplications and when the Master still did not accept him, he cut off his arm and offered it to Bodhidharma as an expression of his sincerity to follow the Xiu Lian path, upon which Dazu was "invited into the cave".
History is filled with examples of individuals on the Xiu Lian Purification journey who perform extreme, ascetic spiritual practices in order to become accepted as students of a high-level enlightened Master. I must confess that 7 years ago, as I was preparing to leave the corporate world, family, friends, and society and "go to the mountain", I was contemplating attempting the "9-Year Wall-Staring Practice" as a sure-fire way to reach Tao. Who knows, maybe I'd attempted it in one or more of my past lives.
I'm pretty sure now that I was even less prepared than Dazu Huike, and even if I had found a cave, I wouldn't have lasted a day...
© Stephen Colwell, 2017 All Rights Reserved