This beautiful anecdote from Bodhidharma’s life is from the book “The Search” which is a compilation of the talks that Osho gave on “The Ten Bulls of Zen”.
Bodhidharma went to China. The emperor said, “I am in a deep turmoil within. I am very ambitious though I have one of the biggest empires in the world, but the ego still feels discontented.”
Bodhidharma laughed and said, “You have come to the right person. Do one thing : early in the morning, four o’clock, you come. But remember to bring your ego with you; otherwise, what can I do if you don’t bring it?”
The emperor felt a little confused. What does he mean ? He asked again, “What do you mean ?”
Bodhidharma said, “Exactly what I am saying, that’s what I mean. Bring your ego with you and I will be ready to finish it forever. But come alone – no need to bring any guards or anything.”
Four o’clock in the night ? – and this man seems to be very ferocious and nobody knows what he will do. The emperor could not sleep. He tried to forget the whole thing and not go, but then there was attraction also : “Maybe this man knows something, and he seems to be so confident.” He has seen many great saints, this and that, and nobody had said so easily, “Bring it, and I will finish it forever !”
So finally he decided to go. He went there. Bodhidharma was sitting with a big staff in his hand. The emperor approached trembling. Bodhidharma said, “Alone? Where is your ego?”
The emperor said, “It is not a thing that I can bring. It is always in me.”
Bodhidharma said, “Then its okay. Sit down and close your eyes, and find out where it is hiding in you. The moment you catch hold of it, just tell me.”
Trembling, alone in that temple outside the town, the emperor for the first time in his life closed his eyes to meditate and he started looking around : Where is the ego ? One hour passed, another hour passed. The sun was rising, and the emperor was sitting in such a blessed state. Bodhidharma shook him and said, “Now, it is enough – two hours ! Where is it?”
And the emperor started laughing. He bowed down and touched Bodhidharma’s feet and he said, “I cannot find it.”
Bodhidharma laughed and he said, “See! I have finished it. Now whenever you have this wrong notion of ego, don’t go asking other people how to drop it. Just close your eyes and try to find where it is.”
Those who have gone in have never found it there.
It is as if I give you a torch and tell you to go in the room and find where the darkness is hiding. You take the torch, you go into the room, but the darkness is not there. If you take the torch with you, the darkness is not there. If you don’t take the torch, then it is there. Darkness is an absence of light. Ego is an absence of awareness. If you bring awareness to your being, suddenly it is not there.
Lesson for life – Darkness is an absence of light. Ego is an absence of awareness. Can’t say anything more, so shutting up. The Master has spoken.