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I am not questioning the path of Zen. It just exist as it is. But I read this legend about Bodhidharma. To stay awake he cut off his eyelids and tea was flourished. Upto now I have felt tranquility in meditation. But isn't it an insane act. How people tell this story about a great Zen master? Or is it mystical way of delivering something which I am not understanding?

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Usually, such extreme Zen stories are used to illustrate commitment and urgency to achieve enlightenment.

It's said that he cut his eyelids because at some point he fell asleep during meditation, a major distraction for him.

Huiko, a disciple, is said to have cut his arm to be accepted as a student by Bodhidharma.

There are many other stories, some involving cut a disciple's fingers (master Gutei Isshi), others cutting a cat in half (master Nansen Osho) and so on.

As far as factuality, I don't think these stories are believed by zen monks to have happened (at least, the ones harming another being), but their symbolism remain a strong vehicle to convey strong meanings, specially in the form of Koans.

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    One of the stories looks as if it's historical: terebess.hu/zen/mesterek/RyonenGenso.html – ChrisW Dec 26 '15 at 1:35
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    Exactly. These stories are no different than saying Jesus walked on water or Moses parted the Red Sea. They are mythical tales engineered to convey a point or inspire. To take them literally, is to miss the point. In fact, to taking them literally pretty much guarantees that you're heading in the wrong direction altogether. – user698 Dec 26 '15 at 1:54
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    The story of Nansen cutting the cat in half is a Koan, yes? – Ryan Dec 26 '15 at 2:22
  • Yes it must be symbolic storyteller may be pointing to disciple's dedication or killing of ego. – Yugandhar Chaudhari Dec 26 '15 at 4:01
  • @Ryan Exactly, it is case 14 in Zen master Wumen's koan compilation "The Gateless Gate". – mle Feb 19 '16 at 0:28

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