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?


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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