stepping stones of truth

A journey along the path of life - the stones can be rough, smooth or even wobbly!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Do you know Atisha's cook?

No. This isnt Atisha, or his cook. Its Bodhidharma! But he does share something with Atisha, they were both famous and respected Indian sages who travelled long journeys to bring Buddhism to foreign lands.

Arent these amazing images? I found them in a couple of temples in Kyoto. This first one is about six foot sqaure, and glowers at you as you turn a corner in a corridor in Toji-in (part of the Myoshinji temple complex). Very unexpected to see something so contemporary in an ancient setting. But that is very Zen in itself. And Bodhidharma is the person who brought Buddhism from the West (India) to the East (ie China and Japan) early in the 5th century. I believe he went to the Shaolin Temple in China (but my friend Zen) may be able to confirm that.

He is shown with a big nose, I believe this is to emphasise his Indian origins, (the Japanese have cute small noses) I only found three portraits in this calligraphic and modern style. This one was hidden up in the rafters facing a delightful Japanese temple garden with lakes and winding paths.

This too was up high and I had to hold the camera above my head and hope for the best. I havent been able to find out why he has red robes. But he looks less fierce in this one. Quite a guy!

Right! Back to Atisha. He too was an Indian sage, apparently in a university in Bengal in the 11th century. He was asked to go to Tibet, to help bring back Buddhism there, which had suffered under the hands of a nasty king. So he took his cook with him on the journey, and he stayed there with Atisha.

The cook was quite a nasty character. Disagreeable. argumentative, rude and obnoxious to everyone. Including Atisha. The Tibetans said "Look, no-one likes this fellow. You dont need him. We can cook for you. For heaven's sake, send him away! He is upsetting us all."

Atisha calmly replied "He isnt just my cook. He is my teacher. I need him to teach me patience"

Do you know Atisha's cook?


At 11:58 am, Blogger Tabor said...

I guess somedays that is myself! I know very little about Buddhism and thank you for this quick little lesson. Why are they so 'well-fed'?

At 2:37 pm, Blogger Tabor said...

Thanks for the heads-up on Vishwa's link. I am flattered.

At 12:52 pm, Blogger Pam said...

Oh yes, I know Atisha's cook well. In the end I fired him. It just wasn't worth the effort.My parents are in their mid-eighties now. I might just be re-hiring old Atisha some time soon.

At 12:56 pm, Blogger Kerri said...

I read this post some time ago and must've been too tired to leave a comment at the time.
Surely there are easier ways to learn patience...perhaps not as affective as Atish's cook, but more pleasant to endure :)

At 3:11 pm, Blogger Marcus said...


First time visitor here to your lovely blog.

Amazing images of Bodhidharma! Thank you so much for posting them!

Namu Amita Butsu



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