Bodhidharma Quotes

Bodhidharma, a revered figure in Zen Buddhism, left a profound legacy through his teachings and quotes. One of his most famous quotes states, “Not thinking about anything is Zen. Once you know this, walking, sitting, or lying down, everything you do is Zen.” These words encapsulate the essence of Zen philosophy and offer valuable insights into living a mindful, meaningful life.

Zen is often misunderstood as a complex practice reserved for monastic retreats, but Bodhidharma’s quote reminds us that Zen is simple and accessible to all. It underscores the idea that mindfulness isn’t limited to meditation alone. Instead, it’s a state of mind that should permeate every moment of our existence.

The key to Zen, as Bodhidharma emphasizes, is to quiet the incessant chatter of our thoughts. When we stop fixating on the past or worrying about the future, we open ourselves to the present moment. This state of thoughtless awareness, or “no-mind,” is where Zen thrives. Whether you’re walking, sitting, or lying down, your actions become an expression of Zen when they flow naturally from this state of mind.

Bodhidharma’s wisdom serves as a reminder that we can all infuse our daily lives with the serenity and clarity that Zen offers. By liberating ourselves from the tyranny of our thoughts, we can experience the profound simplicity and beauty of the present moment. In this way, Bodhidharma’s teachings continue to guide us on the path to a more peaceful and mindful existence.


Bodhidharma says: “. . . the fools of this world prefer to look for sages far away. They don’t believe that the wisdom of their own mind is the sage . . . the sutras say, “Mind is the teaching.” But people of no understanding don’t believe in their own mind or that by understanding this teaching they can become a sage. They prefer to look for distant knowledge and long for things in space, buddha-images, light, incense, and colors. They fall prey to falsehood and lose their minds to insanity.”

Bodhidharma says: “. . . the only reason I’ve come to China is to transmit the instantaneous teaching of the Mahayana. This mind is the Buddha. I don’t talk about precepts, devotions or ascetic practices such immersing yourself in water and fire, treading a wheel of knives, eating one meal a day,
or never lying down. These are fanatical, provisional teachings. Once you recognize your moving, miraculously aware nature.”

Bodhidharma says: “. . . this mind, through endless kalpas without beginning, has never varied. It has never lived or died, appeared or disappeared, increased or decreased. It’s not pure or impure, good or evil, past or future. It’s not true or false. It’s not male or female. It doesn’t appear as a monk or a layman, an elder or a novice, a sage or a fool, a buddha or a mortal. It strives for no realization and suffers no karma. It has no strength or form. It’s like space. You can’t possess it and you can’t lose it. Its movements can’t be blocked by mountains, rivers, or rock walls. . . .”

Bodhidharma says: “A buddha is an idle person. He doesn’t run around after fortune and fame.”

Bodhidharma says: “A buddha is someone who finds freedom in good fortune and bad. Such is his power that karma can’t hold him. No matter what kind of karma, a buddha transforms it. Heaven and hell are nothing to him. But the awareness of a mortal is dim compared to that of a buddha, who penetrates everything, inside and out.”

Bodhidharma says: “A special transmission outside the scriptures, Not founded upon words and letters; By pointing directly to mind it lets one see into [one’s own true] nature and attain Buddhahood.”

Bodhidharma says: “As long as you look for a Buddha somewhere else, you’ll never see that your own mind is the Buddha.”

Bodhidharma says: “As mortals, we are ruled by conditions, not by ourselves. All the suffering and joy we experience depend on conditions. If we should be blessed by some great reward, such as fame or fortune, it’s the fruit of a seed planted by us in the past. When conditions change, it ends. Why delight in it’s existence ? But while success and failure depend on conditions, the mind neither waxes nor wanes. Those who remain unmoved by the wind of joy silently follow the Path.”

Bodhidharma says: “Buddha is Sanskrit for what you call aware, miraculously aware. Responding, arching your brows blinking your eyes, moving your hands and feet, its all your miraculously aware nature. And this nature is the mind. And the mind is the Buddha. And the Buddha is the path. And the path is Zen. But the word Zen is one that remains a puzzle to both mortals and sages. Seeing your nature is Zen. Unless you see your nature, it’s not Zen.”

Bodhidharma says: “Buddha means awareness, the awareness of body and mind that prevents evil from arising in either.”

Bodhidharma says: “Buddhas regard delusion as their father and greed as their mother. Delusion and greed are different names for mortality. Delusion and mortality are like the left hand and the right hand. There’s no other difference. When you’re deluded, you’re on this shore. When you’re aware, you’re on the other shore.”

Bodhidharma says: “Disciple: But why shouldn’t we worship buddhas and bodhisattvas?
Bodhidharma: Devils and demons possess the power of manifestation. They can create the appearance of bodhisattvas in all sorts of guises. But they’re false. None of them are buddhas. The buddha is your own mind. Don’t misdirect your worship.”

Bodhidharma says: “Don’t hate life and death or love life and death. Keep your every thought free of delusion, and in life you’ll witness the beginning of nirvana, and in death you’ll experience the assurance of no rebirth.”

Bodhidharma says: “Even if a buddha or bodhisattva should suddenly appear before you, there’s no need for reverence. This mind of ours is empty and contains no such form. Those who hold onto appearances are devils. They fall from the Path. Why worship illusions born of the mind?”

Bodhidharma says: “Every suffering is a buddha-seed, because suffering impels mortals to seek wisdom. But you can only say that suffering gives rise to Buddhahood. You can’t say that suffering is Buddhahood.”

Bodhidharma says: “Huike said to Bodhidharma, “My mind is anxious. Please pacify it.”
Bodhidharma replied, “Bring me your mind, and I will pacify it.”
Huike said, “Although I’ve sought it, I cannot find it.”
“There,” Bodhidharma replied, “I have pacified your mind.””

Bodhidharma says: “I only talk about seeing your nature. I don’t talk about sex simply because you don’t see your nature. Once you see your nature, sex is basically immaterial. It ends along with your delight in it. Even if some habits remain’, they can’t harm you, because your nature is essentially pure. Despite dwelling in a material body of four elements, your nature is basically pure. It can’t be corrupted.”

Bodhidharma says: “If we should be blessed by some great reward, such as fame or fortune, it’s the fruit of a seed planted by us in the past.”

Bodhidharma says: “If you don’t understand by yourself, you’ll have to find a teacher to get to the bottom of life and death. But unless he sees his nature, such a person isn’t a teacher. Even if he can recite the Twelvefold Canon he can’t escape the Wheel of Birth and Death. He suffers in the three realms without hope of release.”

Bodhidharma says: “If you know that everything comes from the mind, don’t become attached. Once attached, you’re unaware. But once you see your own nature, the entire Canon becomes so much prose. It’s thousands of sutras and shastras only amount to a clear mind. Understanding comes in midsentence. What good are doctrines? The ultimate Truth is beyond words. Doctrines are words. They’re not the Way. The Way is wordless. Words are illusions. . . . Don’t cling to appearances, and you’ll break through all barriers. . . .”

Bodhidharma says: “If you see your nature, you don’t need to read sutras or invoke buddhas. Erudition and knowledge are not only useless but also cloud your awareness. Doctrines are only for pointing to the mind. Once you see your mind, why pay attention to doctrines?”

Bodhidharma says: “If you speak when you know, Your speech is free. If you’re silent when you don’t know, your silence is tied. If speech isn’t attached to appearances its free. If silence is attached to appearances, it’s tied. Language is essentially free. It has nothing to do with attachment. And attachment has nothing to do with language. Reality has no high or low. If you see high or low, It isn’t real. A raft isn’t real. But a passenger raft is. A person who rides such a raft can cross that which isn’t real. That’s why it’s real.”

Bodhidharma says: “If you use your mind to study reality, you won’t understand either your mind or reality. If you study reality without using your mind, you’ll understand both.”

Bodhidharma says: “If you’re looking for the Way, the Way won’t appear until your body disappears. It’s like stripping bark from a tree. This karmic body undergoes constant change. It has no fixed reality. Practice according to your thoughts. Don’t hate life and death or love life and death. Keep your every thought free of delusion, and in life you’ll witness the beg- inning of nirvana and in death you’ll experience the assurance of no rebirth.”

Bodhidharma says: “If, as in a dream, you see a light brighter than the sun, your remaining attachments will suddenly come to an end and the nature of reality will be revealed. Such an occurrence serves as the basis for enlightenment. But this is something only you know. You can’t explain it to others. Or if, while you’re walking, standing, sitting, or lying in a quiet grove, you see a light, regardless of whether it’s bright or dim, don’t tell others and don’t focus on it. It’s the light of your own nature. Or if, while you’re walking, standing, sitting, or lying in the stillness and darkness of night, everything appears as though in daylight, don’t be startled. It’s your own mind about to reveal itself. Or if, while you’re dreaming at night, you see the moon and stars in all their clarity, it means the workings of your mind are about to end. But don’t tell others.”

Bodhidharma says: “In order to see a fish you must watch the water”

Bodhidharma says: “Individuals create karma; karma doesn’t create individuals. They create karma in this life and receive their reward in the next. They never escape. Only someone who’s perfect creates no karma in this life and receives no reward. The sutras say, “Who creates no karma obtains the Dharma.””

Bodhidharma says: “Long ago, the monk Good Star 21 was able to recite the entire Canon. But he didn’t escape the Wheel, because he didn’t see his nature. If this was the case with Good Star, then people nowadays who recite a few sutras or shastras and think it’s the Dharma are fools. Unless you see your mind, reciting so much prose is useless.”

Bodhidharma says:  “Many roads lead to the Path, but basically there are only two: reason and practice.”

Bodhidharma says: “Mind is like the wood or stone from which a person carves an image. If he carves a dragon or a tiger, and seeing it fears it, he is like a stupid person creating a picture of hell and then afraid to face it. If he does not fear it, then his unnecessary thoughts will vanish.
Part of the mind produces sight, sound, taste, odor and sensibility, and from them raises greed, anger and ignorance with all their accompanying likes and dislikes.”