“Bodhidharma’s Gift”

by Dr. Larry Morris

There is a wonderful story told of the legendary Zen Master Bodhidharma who is said to have brought Zen to China from India. The legend has it that one time Bodhidharma fell asleep in meditation and when he awoke, he was so angry with himself that he cut off his eyebrows as a reminder to himself to stay awake in meditation. The story goes on that Bodhidharma's eyebrows fell to the ground, took root and sprouted as tea plants. So when a Zen monk is tempted to fall asleep in meditation, he drinks tea—which is Bodhidharma's gift of wakefulness. It’s interesting that even the great Bodhidharma got angry at himself for spiritual slackness. In fact, the great teachers of humanity have all acknowledged mistakes and shortcomings. Yet how hard we tend to be on ourselves for our frailties and mistakes! Perhaps we can be a little more gentle and tolerant of our own foibles when we stop and think of Bodhidharma's eyebrows. Let's practice self-gentleness, self-kindness and self-compassion and we will find our way is filled with ease.