taken aback, then asked the next question, "What
then, is the essence of Buddhism?"
Bodhidharma's immediated reply was, "Vast emptiness and no
essence at al !" is stunned the Emperor as he could not grasp
the deep meaning of `no essence at al ' in the Buddha's teach-
ing. Other masters had taken great pains to explain that the es-
sence was contained in the doctrines such as `Cause and Effect,
the Four Noble Truths,the Bodhisat va Ideals, etc', but this so-
cal ed great patriarch of Buddhism had just declared that there
was `no essence at al '.
e Emperor then put his final question, "Since you say that
in Buddhism all things have no essence, who then is speaking
before me now?" Bodhidharma replied "I do not know." e
Emperor was taken aback, for he could not understand what
Bodhidharma meant.
e thoroughly confused Emperor then dismissed the sage from
the court and thus, China had its first taste of Ch'an teaching.
ereafter, Bodhidharma, left to himself, reflected, `Since a
learned and great scholar such as the Emperor was not able to
understand what I am trying to impart perhaps the conditions
are not ripe enough for me to teach yet....' He then retired to a
cave in the famous Shao Lin Temple where he sat in deep con-
templation, facing a wal , for some nine years, waiting for the
time when his teachings could be understood and accepted by
the people.