But his own position is that whatever you have been doing in your unconsciousness is meaningless. When you wake up it all disappears within seconds. And you can wake up at any moment. Just a certain right device and you will be awakened.
You can wake up in the middle of the night. The dreams cannot prevent you from waking up; neither can your sleep prevent you from waking up. It is just your own will not to wake up. That’s why the sleep continues and the dream continues. If the will to wake up arises in you, then enlightenment is instantaneous.
Now this is Bodhidharma’s own position. But he is in a difficulty because he belongs to the Mahayana school and he was teaching in China, to the Mahayana schools to which China belongs. Those disciples who were asking were quoting Buddha according to Mahayana sutras. Now nobody knows whether Buddha said them or they were inventions of a certain school, because in the Hinayana school those sutras are not found. And these are only two schools…the main ones. There are thirty other schools which are very small streams, but they also have something, a grandeur of their own, and they all differ.
But on one point they all agree: that Buddha cannot be wrong. They cannot say that Buddha is wrong. So they have to go round about saying that Buddha is right. Still, what they are saying is also right, although it is contradictory. The disciple is asking: “Why do you now say that simply beholding the mind and overcoming the three poisons is liberation? You are making it too simple.”
Buddha himself is saying that he has been undergoing innumerable hardships for three asankhya kalpas – that is, innumerable ages – and then he achieved enlightenment. It was not instantaneous. It had a long history of millions of years behind it…of doing good, of avoiding evil, of practicing meditation, of practicing other disciplines. It took three innumerable ages for him to become a buddha.
If this was the situation of a Gautam Buddha, who seems to be the greatest human being who has lived on the earth, then what will be the situation for an ordinary man? Perhaps instead of three…thirteen asankhya kalpas, or thirty! But you are saying that just by watching your mind, just at this very moment, you can become enlightened.
How did these two different attitudes arise? If you don’t understand the background, you will not be able to understand the difficulty of Bodhidharma. Buddha left his palace when he was twenty-nine years of age. He went to every great teacher who was famous in his day and he was such a sincere seeker that he risked everything. Whatever those teachers said, he did it more perfectly than they had ever expected from anyone. In fact, they themselves were not so perfect.
And Buddha said, “I have done it, but nothing has happened. I am still as ignorant as I was before. Yes, I have learned a certain skill. I can do a certain distortion of the body, by yoga. But that does not make me aware of my being; it does not deliver me the good, the truth.