388. Sangha Buddha

In Zen legend, when Master Bodhidharma was approaching death,  he called together his four senior disciples and asked them to explain their understanding. 

The first three gave verbal answers. Bodidharma said to them respectively “you have my skin”, “you have my flesh” and “you have my bones”. The fourth disciple Huike (Eko) said nothing, simply did prostrations then returned to his place. Bodhidharma then gave the transmission to him.

That story was subsequently used in zen to justify an anti-intellectual stance, which continues to this day.

Though not from Dōgen. In Katto, he gave an entirely different interpretation of the story. In his view, it was a completely erroneous understanding to think that skin is superficial and marrow is profound. Or, as he said in another context “If your speech is superficial, why would your silence be profound?”

There’s an aspect to the story which I don’t think has been properly explored. In the translations, Bodhidharma appears to refer to his skin, his flesh, his bones, his marrow, but I don’t think that’s an accurate rendition.  He wasn’t talking about his own body.

Or just his own body. He was talking about the body of the True Teacher.

The True Teacher appears when sincere practitioners gather together.

What could you call that True Teacher?

You could say that we’re not him, that we’ll never be him, but we can be a part of him, this body of sincere practitioners.

I believe Bodhidharma was referring to the skin, flesh, bones, and marrow of The True Teacher, not his own puny body and mind.

In Buddhism there is the idea that the Buddha has three bodies; his historical body, the universal body (dharmakaya) ,and a third body, which is sometimes called the body of joy.

I think that the third body is more accurately rendered as the True Teacher; we could call that person Sangha Buddha. 

Thus we have the historical Buddha, the Reality Buddha and the Sangha Buddha.

Those three Buddhas are not three separate jewels But the one Jewel, seen differently.