If You See The Buddha Kill Him

If You See The Buddha Kill Him is probably the most famous quote from the great Zen master and man of myth and legend, Bodhidharma. Taken literally, one would expect that it would be a very tongue-in-cheek thing to say. especially as the great Siddhartha Gautama (better known as The Buddha) had already long since left this life by the time these words were said to have been uttered. However, when we look deeper into this statement from the perspective of what Bodhidharma actually meant, we find something very profound indeed. For me, in my very  humble opinion, the meaning is twofold, and I shall share both views in this post.

Firstly, if you see someone coming towards you and he/she looks and acts like a Buddha (an enlightened one), then you can bet your life that it is not a Buddha. Buddhas walk among us unnoticed because awakened souls tend to be very unassuming and do not stand out from the crowd, not in the sense that the phrase “standing out from the crowd” is usually meant. Buddhas don’t need to stand out from the crowd from a “display” point of view because they reflect the light of consciousness wherever they go and mostly, only those who are spiritual seekers would recognise a Buddha-like act or gesture. A good example of this is the sage Ramana Maharshi. When the Maharshi first awakened, after a short space of time he made his way to the village of Tiruvannamalai, which sits at the foot of the holy mountain of Arunachala. He never left the area again until he gave up his body on the 14th of April 1950. He pretty much owned only the loin cloth on his back, nothing else, yet people from all over the world were attracted to his ashram, including the likes of Carl Jung and Somerset Maughan, simply because he reflected the light of consciousness.

So, the meaning of “If You See The Buddha Kill Him” from the above perspective, is don’t follow people who claim to be spiritual teachers, gurus and sages because if they were teachers, gurus and sages they wouldn’t have to make the claim.

Secondly, the meaning has to do with how people who are spiritual seekers quite often get attached to seeing clairvoyant visions, not realising that developing these types of attachments to psychic powers etc. will only hinder the quest for enlightenment. Clairvoyant visions (such as a vision of The Buddha during meditation) are not unlike our view of the world in day-to-day life. They are temporal forms that appear and disappear. That which appears and disappears is an illusion. The forms themselves are only real in that they are made, or comprised if you like, of consciousness. Consciousness is the eternally flowing river that never stays the same, hence form appears and disappears There is also the subject/object thing (the seer and that which is seen) going on here, which is duality and therefore also an illusion.

So, this is the meaning of “If You See The Buddha Kill Him”  from the above perspective. Do not get attached to or desire to develop psychic powers because this practice will only hinder your spiritual journey. Those who attain Buddhahood automatically develop such powers, but they see them for what they are and don’t worry about them. The attainment of Buddhahood or enlightenment is simply the realisation that you always were, are now, and always will be A Buddha, that once you attain Buddhahood the Buddha disappears.

Peace Descending

I was not even born when Ramana Maharshi left this earthly life and I didn’t even hear of him until roughly the last 10-12 years ago, but the impact he has had on my life has been amazing.  Of course, he was no mere mortal, but even so, his influence on me defies all logic.  Today, for example, I finished reading The Mind of Ramana Maharshi by Arthur Osbourne, for the fourth time.  The penultimate chapter covers the great sage’s mahasamadhi.  As I was reading it I felt very tearful; not out of grief, but because I was so touched by the graciousness shown to his devotees throughout his time in Tiruvannamalai.  The book managed to convey this to the reader very admirably.  Even in the last hours of his earthly life he was still giving darshan.

I have found that whenever I feel that the world is getting to me, and I feel myself getting sucked in by the tricks of the ego, a bit of Ramana Maharshi always brings me back.  I always get such a feeling of peace descend upon me when I read about his teachings and life.  For me, the main message that flows from the pages is that The Maharshi radiated such peace, and it is as though I am touched by that very same peace as I read; everything about him was just pure love.

There aren’t really any words to explain this kind of thing properly, and I’m sure some people reading this will have had the same experience with their own particular life influences and will understand what I mean; words.being completely unnecessary.