‘Nothing Holy’

Put an early religious spin on Shūnyam and you will miss. And in this business, you miss by a milli-meter, you miss by a mile.


There is nothing holy, religious, sacred, spiritual, esoteric or mystical about Shūnyam. There is nothing mundane, profane or banal about it either. [But that is less often the slip.] To limit it so would be to abase its Truth.

‘Nothing holy’, replied Bodhidharman [around 500 CE], when Emperor Wu asked him: ‘What is holy truth?’ And for good measure, he denied any Accumulation of Merit for good deeds done.

Indian records are sketchy as is the norm. We know Bodhidharman cited from the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra, [Lanka, as in Sri Lanka today] a later tradition to the Prajñā Pāramitha.

Chinese chroniclers [Tánlín, Dàoxuān, circa 550 CE] identify him as: ‘The third son of a nobleman of firm Brahman stock from South India’.

Given what we know of dynasties and trade-routes, he was most likely from Kāñcipuram, the southern seat of the Śaṅkarācārya and the then capital of the Pallavas.

He was the first Patriarch of C’han-Zen and the 28th Patriarch of the root lineage beginning with Mahākāśyapa. No shrines, no stupas, no sign-boards, the last time I checked. No one remembers anymore.