June 03, 2013

Consider the Source: Why Bodhidharma was a rebel, not a myth

Andy Ferguson

Revered as the father of Zen Buddhism, some scholars have still denied or raised doubts as to whether Bodhidharma actually existed.

He did. In fact, new evidence from Chinese scholarship suggests that he was a critically important historical figure, one far more fascinating than previously imagined. But if this is true, why doesn’t he appear in any official imperial records that were created while he lived?

The earliest and most reliable account we have concerning Bodhidharma’s life, written by the great monk-historian Dao Xuan around the year 650 AD, clearly suggests that Bodhidharma did not like emperors and made a point to avoid them. The famous story of Bodhidharma meeting and rejecting the “Bodhisattva Emperor Wu” of the Liang Dynasty is only the most famous bit of information that supports this thesis.

BodhidharmaDao Xuan wrote of Bodhidharma that his “followers were like a city,” and “everywhere he traveled people were enlightened.” But he also says that “Those [emperors and elites] who wanted him to come to them could not draw him near,” and he “avoided places of imperial sway.” This appears to explain why Bodhidharma does not appear in any official imperial records—he simply stayed away from emperors. Dao Xuan, however, a Buddhist historian who likely had direct contact with disciples of Bodhidharma’s main disciple Huike, does provide various accounts of Bodhidharma’s life and the lives of his two principal followers.  This textual evidence, along with early stone monument records in China and various local records, argue conclusively that Bodhidharma was a real person, not someone made up later.

Bodhidharma wasn’t the only early Chinese Zen master who was a political rebel—his disciple Huike and others down through the lineage were as well. Indeed, anti-imperial sentiment is so prominent in old Chinese Zen texts that I’ve come to regard this as a defining aspect of early Zen. In the struggle between it and Imperial Buddhism, the emperors eventually gained the upper hand, making Zen a handmaiden of imperial power within a few hundred years of Bodhidharma’s life. But Zen didn’t go down without a fight!

Bodhidharma’s disciples Huike and Sengfu continued his rebellious ways, both actively avoiding emperors. Sengfu lived within walking distance of Emperor Wu’s court for decades, but never responded to entreaties to come teach there. Other evidence indicates that Huike riled the religious establishment of his day by preaching Bodhidharma’s Zen to commoners, undermining the imperially sanctioned Buddhist schools. The traditional story says authorities executed Huike when the Imperial Buddhist religious establishment could no longer tolerate his defiance of their teachings and authority. While the texts that tell this tale are not as reliable as Dao Xuan’s stories, they concur with other evidence that remains.

—Andy Ferguson


This post is part of author and scholar Andy Ferguson's new “Consider the Source” series. As an old Chinese saying goes, “When drinking water, consider the source.” In the coming weeks, Ferguson will ask and answer seemingly simple (but in the end, profound) questions about the “source” of East Asian Buddhism, weaving a tale of both spiritual inspiration and political intrigue.

This fall, Tricycle will be traveling to the source itself, China, in a special pilgrimage led by Ferguson and abbot of the Village Zendo Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara. Want to come with us? Click here for more information.

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safwan's picture

The frightenning thing is that a genuine disciple follows a Zen master in practicing assidously but then, suddenly when the government asks for support for war, then all the past practice about Buddhanature in all living being, compassion and non-violence, all this evaporates.

Rob_'s picture

For one, I think you're focusing too much on a moment in time. Early to mid 1900's in Japan. Institutions develop over centuries. Institutions with all manner of people and politics immersed in a culture milieu, and institutions will not adhere to the idealistic mythology of a tradition.

In general, over the centuries the Zen institution(s) in China, Korea, and Japan went through cycles of support and suppression with the political powers of the day in each country. That's just the messiness of being human.

You can get caught up in the problem that institutions never adhere to the idealized notions of what they claim to support, or you can use the idealized mythology as a groundwork for your own individual practice.

safwan's picture

Rob, it is not the particular period of time which is the focus.
The focus is on doctrinal and behavioural matter: why Zen teachings did not prevent their masters from the active support for the military authorities. Is Buddhism based on nonviolence and Buddhanature in all people, even those who were mass murdered in Asia?

In times of relative peace and no challenges (like in our social situation now) we can hear all sweet words and magnificent claims - about enlightenment and Buddhanature and the like. The true nature of a certain discipline or teaching is revealed at times of challenge.
If self-preservation was an element in Zen (or other groups) deciding to support the authorities - then such groups cannot claim their "rebellious" attitude against authorities citing an example of an undocumented stroy of 1000 years ago.

Rob_'s picture

Show me an example where a doctrine from any religion or philosophy has been bullet proof to the self-centered political aspirations of human beings? Why would Zen Buddhism be especially immune to human abuse?

If you have the ideal that Buddhism is based on non-violence that's fine. Just don't expect that ideal to be manifest in all the corners of the world that say they're Buddhist.

What groups have claimed this rebelliousness? You're basically creating your own conflict that doesn't exist. This was an opinion made by one author about the possible origins of Zen. Origins I might add that while casually linked to the current day, are also far removed in many ways because of the numerous influences to Zen over the centuries.

safwan's picture

Yes, there are examples of social and political activities based on absolute nonviolence, Gandhi’s one of them.

It is just meaningless to advocate compassion, Buddhanature and the like (to end human abuse) – then say we are not immune to human abuse. In search of Satori, Zen claims to disassociate itself from political authorities, yet when authorities declared war - Zen masters went to please the authorities by their active support of human abuse. Many of uncounted war murdered people in China (and women made prostitute for soldiers) could have been also Zen or Chan and heard about Bodhidharma, but even if not, they were human beings whose life is divine.
Zen does not have the concept of ‘Divine’ in its teachings, so everything goes. In Nichiren Buddhism Life itself is the Divine, (the most valuable for one to respect): “One day of Life is more valuable than all the treasures of the major world system…A single life is worth more than the major world system”.
Returning to the article: as you mentioned, the origin of Zen may be “far removed” from current reality or environment. But the mere reference to Bodhidharma stories signifies some association with that source (or frame of mind). Bodhidharma was said to have sat 9 years “ facing the rock wall of a cave that's about a mile from the Shaolin Temple. Thus he won the title "the wall-gazing brahmin".
http://oaks.nvg.org/bodhidharma.html (Bodhidharma Lore paragraph)
The essence of mythology of someone spending a year, or 9 years “wall gazing in a cave” searching for enlightenment speaks of itself. This legend may have not literally occurred – but accepting it in Zen literature over generations signifies the spirit of escapism from reality and occupying the mind with mental abstarction. It geminated later koans, soundless sounds, gateless gates etc…What I am getting at is that there are no inspiring values and no treaceable accounts Zen can offer - unless in cases of offered teachings which refer to truly revolutionary concepts such as the Lotus Sutra.

Rob_'s picture

Gandhi was a person, not a 1000 year old institution.

I just can't agree with your simplistic, generalized notions. You say, "Zen claims to disassociate itself from political authorities". I already touched on this. There is no such Zen claim (besides, who or what would speak for all of the Zen tradition). The author put forth the idea that Bodhidharma and some of the next generation of teachers appeared to remain aloof from political power. Over the next many centuries, Zen Buddhism thrived and received the patronage of political power. Why is this so difficult to imagine?

I also disagree wholeheartedly with, "Zen does not have the concept of ‘Divine’ in its teachings, so everything goes". Sorry, utter, simple nonsense, but believe what you will.

And if you wish to believe that the story of 9 years of wall gazing promotes the spirit of "escapism from reality", by all means. Again, I think that's a bit naive.

If you believe Zen doesn't offer any inspiring values, than I suspect it's not for you.

safwan's picture

You are right Rob, that it is generalisation to tag all Zen branches as being the same. Nevertheless there is a general perception of what Zen is. There is no particular branch which rebelliously vocal in distinguishing itself - as far as I know.

What you mentioned about Zen 'thriving under the patronage of political authorities' means that Masters were supportive to these authorities, not rebellious (as the article mentions). Slavery and oppression were also rife under these authorities.

I'm not saying that Zen did not contribute to culture: stone gardens, tea ceremony etc...are wonderful examples. Shinto traditions also have cultural impressions. But we were observing here Zen support to war, which contradicts the belief in the 'Divine nature of life' or human being (Buddhanature). The reverence to nonviolence may exist in Zen literature, but....
About "wall gazing" - you'd kindly agree that the perception of a method to discover the true nature of reality through wall gazing - is not universally accepted.
We all have our freedom of expression, Rob. The article triggered comments, that's all. Comments do not have to applude or accept what is presented. Dialogue opens up windows for exchange of views..

Rob_'s picture

I'm not asking anyone to accept what has been presented. I too am expressing an opinion, and I might not agree with you. I think you've expressed a few generalizations that are simply off the mark, and I've tried to explain myself in some areas. If wall gazing to you means "escape from reality", that's fine. There are other stories in Zen speaking of re-entering the "marketplace", mixing with the dusts of the world. But you'd have to be more thoroughly read Zen literature to know this broader context.

I consistently hear "the general perception of what Zen is". One of those is that "anything goes" (your words) in regards to morality. Another poster here appears to be going down the same road. I find it so silly that it appears some people's explanation for Buddhist support to Imperial Japan was because of no morality in Zen (Besides the fact that all Buddhist sects supported the government). They want to explain an incredibly complex social dynamic with one sentence. And what is really nuts is that for these people, they probably don't try to explore and understand the more complex dynamics that went into creating such a tragedy. Now that's just plain sad. Believing in prejudiced, simplistic notions because it's easy for the mind to grasp.

marginal person's picture

If you tell a person "the word is not the thing" or "the map is not the territory" the usual response is, "Of course not, everybody knows that." Then they proceed to act exactly as if the word is the thing, confusing the thing symbolized with the thing itself.
Any dialogue with such a person is difficult and frustrating. It's like going to a bank to purchase a dozen eggs.
Language can seem diabolical at times. We create useful word-pictures and then we mistake them for reality (Buddhism, Zen, morality, mind, impermanence, dukkah, buddahnature etc.)

safwan's picture

You said that "the map is not the territory" - this is true, but we do not throw maps and reject using them. The relationship between a map and territory it shows - is Non-dual, otherwise a map is useless (but it is not).

Zen claims to teach non-duality, but in its rejection of words and sutras - it is an example of dulaity in thinking. Words of sutras (or any other text), although they are written words, or characters or paintings (physical aspect) but they convey - within their unseen essence - the mind (mental aspect) of their meaning. That's why written or spoken words (physical aspect) can cause a smile or anger (mental aspect) - inseparably. Zen is based on dulaity of mind-object relationship, and this is another separation of mind and reality.

Take for example the approach towards chanting or oral transmission or recorded sutras: Zen's approach is firmly based on Dulaity, separating the vehicle (voice) from its mental contents.

Example; your inner perception of music (and its deep impression created within the mind and feelings) - this is not separate from the accoustical vibrations of music conveyed to your sense of hearing. To say that the accoustical vibrations are "music" themselves is of course not correct - and it is also not correct to say that feeling music has "nothing to do with the physical vibrations" conveying it.

Zen is not only dulaistic but also contradictory; some branches have chanting sessions, and all have lectures on sutras and dsicussion of written koans.

marginal person's picture

Thanks for your reply. Interesting opinions but difficult for me to follow.
However it is clear that Zen is not your "cup of tea". Shalom

safwan's picture

This is too easy approach Marigina Person.

safwan's picture

Marginal Person, discussion can be challenging. But if language becomes 'diabolical' and dilaogue 'frustrating' - then we cannot blame others. We can strive to improve our own capacity and endurance. The Lotus Sutra sets 3 conditions for dialogue: /1/ start from compassion, /2/ see the interconnectedness (and sunyatta - in the discussed subject) and /3/ be impartial (towards angery comments etc...).

Of course, the poetic language of the Sutra sets these rules for Buddhist dialogue in a poetic way (having the Robe of Compassion and the Crown of Wisdom and the Armour of Forebearance).

marginal person's picture

Thanks for the quotes from the sutra. The conditions it puts forth for enhancing dialogue are useful ones.
Mindfulness is also important in any dialogue
.When we bring attention to our actions we experience being awake as opposed to sleepwalking through our life.
A mindful reading of my comment might have prevented misinterpreting my words.
I write "language can seem diabolical at times" it becomes "but if language becomes diabolical...." (to seem and to become are quite different).
Also "any dialogue with such a person (one who confuses levels of abstractions) is difficult and frustrating` becomes, "But if language becomes diabolical and dialogue frustrating, then we cannot blame others` which is not what I wrote or meant.
Perhaps my writing lacked clarity but hopefully you can see how taking words out of context changes the meaning of what is said.
If you`re unable to see it, we can agree to disagree.
99.9% of comments made on Tricycle are people expressing opinions, But when people mistake their opinion for fact, meaningful dialogue is not possible..

safwan's picture

A meaningful dialogue depends on both sides. It is always possible.
A Buddhist philosopher (Ikeda) said: "Instead of saying we have a conflict of opinions here, we should say we share a difficult subject for exploration".

Dominic Gomez's picture

Which underscores, Marginal Person, the critical importance of continiung dialogue. Engaging one another rather than closing off the world. This on-going discussion among Safwan, Rob, Celticpassage, you and myself is like a tide coming in. As it does, all boats (we 5) rise equally. We all learn from each other and come to a greater understanding of life, which is what Buddhism is about.

zendo's picture

Professor Gomez: I might respectfully disagree with the notion that this type of conversation (I would not call it dialogue) raises all boats in the harbor. It seems to me that for the most part, the discussants were talking past each other in a way that was often angry, sarcastic, and dismissive. Moreover, this type of conversation seems to me to be typical of many of the blog postings on this website...an odd thing considering it is the website of a Buddhist magazine. I sense that in these postings there is often more at stake than a simple exchange of ideas; there seems to be a covert or unacknowledged need not only to be right, but also to show up or disparage others in righteous indignation. I have read where the Buddha said something about how such conversations "tend not to edify" (although I know that I am writing to a scholar who knows more about what the Buddha is likely to have said that I ever will) and I would agree.

I am currently using the Essence of Zen as a study guide and I would recommend the dharma talk that Sekkei Harada Roshi gave on page 68 entitled: The Way Is One. He starts out quoting Dogen: You should know that what is important is not a matter of debating whether a teaching is superior or inferior or of assessing the depth or shallowness of a teaching; all we have to know is whether the practice is genuine or not." He then goes on to describe, I think quite simply and beautifully, the essence of practice.

Best wishes,
David T Andersen, PhD, ABPP

marginal person's picture

Thank you David for your thoughtful comments and especially for mentioning the Essence of Zen. It`s available to download and is a gift to dharma practitioners.
In terms of the tone of discourse, your reaction is understandable. However I feel it necessary to `let the cat out of the bag`, so to speak.
. If a blogger seems particularly disagreeable and offensive to you, that person is most likely on the Tricycle staff and is instructed to be as obnoxious and offensive as possible to facilitate the arising of unpleasant feelings in other bloggers.. The theory being these button pushers can bring up distressing feelings which are sometimes hard to access .Persons experiencing these strong feelingss of aversion then have much extremely fertile material to work with.The concept being the hindrance is actually the vehicle and the antagonist is an ally. Thus we owe a debt of undying gratitude to these selfless individuls. Shalom

celticpassage's picture

Laughs. You may be on to something. Certainly a conversation can be conducted on multiple levels one of which can certainly be an active demonstration. I have occasionally used this approach myself.

marginal person's picture

I must confess my previous comment was a total work of fiction and a feeble attempt at levity.
I do stand by the concept of the hindrance as a vehicle and the idea that a perceived antagonist is actually an ally. Peace

Dominic Gomez's picture

Thanks for fessing up, MP. Perhaps a second career in creative writing may be in the cards for you! (Seriously ;-)

Dominic Gomez's picture

Thank you for your comment, Dr. Andersen. I rather prefer spicy dialogue to fist-fighting, or worse. Buddha nature is universal. Each of us, including you, has it deep within our lives. Dialogue peels away layers of karmic ignorance covering our Buddhahood that we've built up over countless lifetimes till the present one. For some, the layers are thicker and more calcified.

celticpassage's picture

Perhaps, professor Anderson, your judgments expose more of your inner condition than anyone else's.
Why would any particular type of conversation seem odd because it is on a Buddhist website? It seems you have a favored view of Buddhism and practice.
Also, just because Sekkei Harada Roshi may have said something, doesn't mean it's true.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are institutional values that can be held as personal values. The world today is much different, more connected, than China 1,000 years ago. Buddhism befits the times. When it doesn't it becomes a dead religion disconnected from reality.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Safwan's critiques seem more about zen dogma vis-a-vis society.

safwan's picture

How would the author explain that those masters who believed in Bodhidarma's anti imperial rebellious spirit,
were vocal - and activelly supportive - to the emperor's and government's policy during the II W W, non-Buddhist in all aspects?

Rob_'s picture

There's been over 1000 years of history since Bodhidharma. I don't think there's any implication that Zen has maintained this "rebelliousness". And let's be careful about the term "rebel". I think with Zen's entry to America mostly coinciding with the 60's mindset; this helped foster many issues with some Zen practice centers. People were too fixated on the hagiography, and had a desire to harmonize Zen's rebelliousness with the rebelliousness of the current times. Thus, some believed all sorts of nonsense and accepted abominable behavior from a few supposed Japanese teachers.

safwan's picture

The fact of the 1000 years of ambiguity regarding Bodhidharma - who hated writing his own teachings, makes an article about him an unconfirmed story, a speculation or a myth.

The story that 'whenever he went people got enlightenment' - sounds like in cartoon films of a nonBuddhist imagination. One's enlightenment is the effect of own efforts, overcoming obstacles and defeating inner illusions, mara...etc - not external Bodhidharma or other external radiation.

As for the 'rebellious' character of Zen associated with the 60-s, this suggestion means that it was the environment which was rebellious and Zen was affected by the overall spirit of that time. Regardless of the 60-s, if Zen possessed a rebellious spirit, it must have originated from inner teachings, not the social state of the envirinment of particular phase.

It is of course true that most if not all Zen masters in Japan supported the imperial authorities at war, but why did that take place? I think it is because there is no document which says Zen believes in this and that. there is no acknowledged sutra as a reference to abide by, so any interpretation can be developed. Everything goes, even support to the authorities.

marginal person's picture

What "acknowledged sutra" do you reference?

safwan's picture

Any. Zen is based on transmission of insight apart from any sutras.

marginal person's picture

My problem with the sutras is they were written more then 500 years after Gotama's death, in a language he didn't speak.
I think they are instructive but their authenticity as the words of Gotama is a matter of faith at this point.

celticpassage's picture

I think this is a recognized problem of all ancient writings. Perhaps the important point is not the actual words, since they have no magical power, but the central meaning behind the message. And this I think can be preserved well enough in even cultures of oral transmission.

Indeed, accurate reporting is probably a problem with any events which haven't been video recorded in their entirety at the time in which they occurred with good lighting and a clear sound setup. This would include not only ancient religious teachings, but for example, pretty much all of WW1 and WW2 and much of what happens in the world today as well. It begs the question of how much faith and assumption is present in understanding even today's events.

marginal person's picture

I agree with you, cp, about the meaning behind the words being somewhat preserved. Of course "meaning" is always open to interpretation. Once we utter a sound people are free to hear what they want and hearsay evidence is less then reliable.

celticpassage's picture

Surely this is true of all of Buddhism.
There are no commandments in the Buddha's message, only suggestions about what might constitute 'skillful' behavior.

safwan's picture

It is not clear what do you mean by that "Surely this is true of all of Buddhism". If this statement relates to the fact that all Buddhist institutions run by masters (Zen included) supported the war, then this is correct except for a small Laybelievers organisation Soka Gakkai (Nichiren Buddhism) which rejected cooperation with the militray government, was banned and its leader died in prison.

The statement that Budhhism teaches "skilful" behaviour does not clarify that the teachings are about the skill to reveal Buddhanature and create a peaceful society. Conspiring with violent and criminal authorities is not a Buddhist skill.

celticpassage's picture

Perhaps I can clarify it like this.

If we take the core teachings of Buddhism: The four noble truths and the eightfold path, are there any commandments such as: You shall not commit murder? You shall not steal?

If there are no moral and ethical commandments then all there is in Buddhism are suggestions for "skillful" behavior. An awakened Buddhist need not follow any moral path and so "...conspiring with violent and criminal authorities..." (laying aside the fact that criminal simply means against the law and isn't necessarily immoral at all) is indeed within acceptable Buddhist behavior.

marginal person's picture

There is plenty of information on Buddhist ethics and morality is available to anyone interested in learning about the subject.
Sila (Pali) is usually translated as ethical behavior and it is one of three practices (sila, samadhi and panya).
Sila is the basis for acquiring the right attitude or mindset necessary for meditation. The first level of sila are 5 precepts concerned with basic morality.
The 5 precepts are basic rules of conduct for a happier life,. Briefly they include nonviolence, refraining from taking what has not been freely given, refraining from lying, refraining from sexual misconduct and refraining from the use of intoxicants.

celticpassage's picture

I think you either missed or avoided my point.

Different cannons and sutras apply to different sects of Buddhism and are are additions and not as fundamental as the core of Buddhism (the 4 truths and 8-fold path).

Again, are any of these teachings in the cannon or sutras or the core of Buddhism commandments and not just suggestions for a better life?

It would appear that at least the core shared by Buddhism everywhere has no commandments and are suggestions for a better life.

So, again, the important point is: Are there any commandments in the teachings of Buddhism? If not, then Buddhists are not required to follow them.

marginal person's picture

I don't think I missed your point. From your statement you sounded unaware of the precepts. Obviously we disagree on the nature of ethical behavior in buddhism (dharma practice). No problem

celticpassage's picture

Sorry, I didn't realize it wasn't Safwan who responded.

However, I think there is a problem, since you did it again.
You and Safwan (presumably), and many others I suppose, refuse to acknowledge or state that there are no commandments in Buddhism because of what this obviously means. However, such willful blindness leaves very much to be desired, especially in a religion that holds clarity so highly.

Rob_'s picture

What does it obviously mean?


Pick your poison. I did your work for you because you're too lazy to do an internet search. If you wish to express a bias, I have no problem with that. However, at least make an effort to educate yourself before putting your foot in your mouth.

celticpassage's picture

I don't think you understand. And an internet search won't do you any good.
I suppose you just can't see or are too afraid to say whether there is or is not commandments in Buddhism.

Rob_'s picture

I really want to say something snarky, but I'll do my best to be polite.

You appear to be fixated on the word, "commandment". If you can't get beyond that, I can't help you. You should easily be able to see that the "precepts" as they're called in Buddhism are very similar to the commandments of the Bible. If you can't see that .. well, I can't spoon feed you.

Sorry, I tried being nice. Just couldn't manage.

celticpassage's picture

I thought so.
It's a simple question with a simple answer.
Either there are commandments in Buddhism or there are not.

Not that there are 'similar' teachings in Buddhism.

The fact that you refuse to state the answer clearly and unambiguously is telling.

Why not just simply state whether there is or is not?
That's not too difficult is it?
Whenever someone beats around the bush as you have, it usually means they are too afraid to say. Usually because of peer pressure.

Rob_'s picture

You're wound a little too tight for my tastes. There are drinks and cookies in the lounge.

celticpassage's picture

To me, your juvenile responses and your incapacity to formulate a response to this simple question or to see the value in it displays willful blindness among other things. Again, not valued traits especially if you believe you are on the path to awakening.

Rob_'s picture

And your snide accusations and paranoid projections aren't worth my time and effort. I gave you an answer, but for some reason the word commandment has a very narrowly defined meaning, and exalted place for you.

celticpassage's picture

I don't think I'm making any accusations, and you obviously don't have enough information to judge anything about any Freudian projections that might be present, but since you make such accusations, you also betray that you have no qualifications for doing so.

If the word 'commandment' has such a narrowly defined meaning for me, then it should have been easy for you to give an unambiguous response and yet you couldn't.

I don't think it's me that isn't clear.

Rob_'s picture

Of course you don't think you're making accusations or projections. Try reading your own words, but I can't convince you if you simply wish to deny it. I have no desire to play some teenage game of "yes you did", "no I didn't".

It's clear from your responses to another poster and myself, you have some strict meaning for commandment. Yet you still won't offer one. That's the crux of all of this misunderstanding. How do I give a clear, unambiguous response to a term that you won't define for me? You're the one who has no desire to be clear.

celticpassage's picture

I have no special meaning of commandment, just the usual one. That is, a commandment is a command: A statement prescribing a particular behavior that a person must obey based on the authority of the issuer of the command. The usual example from Judaism is 'Thou shalt not commit murder'.

I thought that this was pretty clear from my very first clarifying response to safwan, and throughout my posts with regard to this topic. And since you didn't once ask for clarification of what I meant by commandment, it wouldn't occur to me that you didn't understand what it meant.

Although I do think you understood what I meant as evidenced by your statement: "You should easily be able to see that the "precepts" as they're called in Buddhism are very similar to the commandments of the Bible."

And as I responded, 'similar' isn't a direct answer to the question: Are there any commandments in core Buddhist teachings? And that can, I believe, be extended to most if not all Buddhist teachings.

So. I think I have been clear, and you did understand.