It was asked of the High Lama from a student, “If I do 100,000 prostrations, 100,000 offerings, and 100,000 recitations what do I get?” The High Lama thought for a moment and then said, “well, nothing I guess”.
Bodhidharma Encounter with Emperor Wu of Liang:
Emperor Wu: “How much karmic merit have I earned for ordaining Buddhist monks, building monasteries, having sutras copied, and commissioning Buddha images?”
Bodhidharma: “None. Good deeds done with worldly intent bring good karma, but no merit.”
Emperor Wu: “So what is the highest meaning of noble truth?”
Bodhidharma: “There is no noble truth, there is only emptiness.”
Emperor Wu: “Then, who is standing before me?”
Bodhidharma: “I know not, Your Majesty.”
The Mayahaya (greater ways) departs from the Theravada in the stance that merits and karma are essentially empty and materialistic in nature. While such good activities may help those being currently in ones’ focus, ultimately as the High Lama stated that ‘nothing is gained’.
To show, to demonstrate is a performance. How often do we find that we are called upon to perform? I see this all the time in the Zen Centers and the Buddhist temples, where one is called upon to “Perform” like a trained animal in some circus act.
Zen students today engage in ‘Performance arts’ of “sitting meditation” that some call Zazen, yet what do they expect to gain? How much Zazen must one do before they get anything? Did nobody bother to even check in with Bodhidharma about this idea?
Bodhidharma shows compassion by demonstrating the teachings openly, in relinquishing and abandoning any clinging aspect of self in front of Emperor Wu. It is said that Bodhidharma came from Oddiyana, the same city as Padmasambhāva! Both were masters of Chöd, an very early Ch’an/Zen development.
Oh, zen seekers, beware of those who turn the Dharma into mere Performance Arts. For that is only the path of suffering and foolishness!