相书-有一种文化叫平等 The Culture of Equality
[Xiang’s Essay] - The Culture of Equality
It was still the year of 526 A.D. Bodhidharma, a cultural-communicator in September, a boarder-crosser in October, arrived at the Shaolin Temple in Songshan Mountain. He was a goner, denied and neglected by the Chinese cultural leader. Desperately, he found an uninhabited place at the back of the mountain. He was alone and language-barriered, yet he settled down.
On the day of November, 23rd, only two months after his landing at Guangzhou and being turned down by the emperor, a monk, who was also new to the temple, came to meet him. This monk was a goner, too. He was from a small place and had no friend in the temple at all. Due to the echoes from kindred solitary souls, the monk visited Bodhidharma on a snowy night.
The monk called himself Shen Guang (meaning “saint’s enlightenment”, for he was said to have been instructed by a saint in the dream). He had been seeking a chance to get to Bodhidharma. And on that cold snowy night, Shen Guang knew the true ability of Bodhidharma by watching him doing cross-legs (zazen). He observed the strange weirdo for half a night, and he knew he was not faking it. Cross-legs is not an ability that can be faked (you don’t believe it, you try it). Why? Doing cross-legs for such a long time is not as easy as sitting on a couch watching TV.
So, Shen Guang asked Bodhidharma if they could communicate about their cultures. The answer was, no. It was the result of cultural priority. A cultural successor could be a tramp, but you were not qualified to talk about culture with me. And Shen Guang, who was so forthright, cut off his arm and gave it to Bodhidharma, meaning, “sorry, tramp. But if you don’t say something tonight, this is what things will become of”. The conversation became the conflict between two cultures, the matter of life and death. There was no way back. In condition of equality, Buddhist culture and Chinese traditional culture were no longer what they were. They advanced. The arm was the symbol of the self-denial of an integrate culture, the symbol of the denial of Emperor Wu’s cultural victory. This denial was inexorable. And this was Chinese culture, not moderate and mild, but confident and responsible, and, equal.
So it was by no accident that Zen developed in China. Zen is the gem on the crown of Chinese culture. It’s beyond all doubt made in China: a Chinese got it at the cost of his life.