I Do Not Know

Three variations on a legendary sixth century encounter between a traveling monk and an emperor — first, from Wikipedia's article Bodhidharma (citing Jeffrey Broughton):

Emperor Wu: "How much karmic merit have I earned for ordaining Buddhist monks, building monasteries, having sutras copied, and commissioning Buddha images?"

Bodhidharma: "None. Good deeds done with worldly intent bring good karma, but no merit."

Emperor Wu: "So what is the highest meaning of noble truth?"

Bodhidharma: "There is no noble truth, there is only emptiness."

Emperor Wu: "Then, who is standing before me?"

Bodhidharma: "I know not, Your Majesty."

... and as translated in [1] (Shobogenzo, Hubert Nearman):

When the First Ancestor arrived at the city of Chinling, he had an audience with Emperor Wu of Liang, whereupon the emperor said to him, "Since the time when I ascended to the throne, I have so excelled in building temples, in copying the Scriptures, and in permitting both men and women to become monks that my deeds must be quite beyond anyone's ability to keep a record of. So what merit have I accrued?"

The Master replied, "There is no merit in any of these."

Dumbfounded, the emperor asked, "Why, pray, are they lacking in merit?"

The Master replied, "Such deeds are merely the results achieved by ordinary people and those in lofty positions who follow the Lesser Course. Such seeking after merit defiles one's deeds. It is like a shadow following a form: even though it exists, it is not the real thing."

The emperor then asked, "What, pray, is true merit?"

The Master answered, "One's immaculately wise discernment being wondrous and fully realized, and one's body being naturally unbounded and tranquil. Merit like this is not sought by the worldly-minded."

The emperor then asked, "What is the paramount Truth of the Holy Teachings?"

The Master replied, "Since the Truth is devoid of any limits, It is beyond holiness."

The emperor then demanded, "And who, pray, is this one who is confronting my royal presence?"

The Master replied, "I do not personally know that One."

... and at [2] and [3]:

Emperor Wu: "I have built many temples, copied innumerable Sutras and ordained many monks since becoming Emperor. Therefore, I ask you, what is my merit?"

Bodhidharma: "None whatsoever!"

Emperor Wu: "Why no merit?"

Bodhidharma: "Doing things for merit has an impure motive and will only bare the puny fruit of rebirth."

Emperor Wu, a little put out: "What then is the most important principle of Buddhism?"

Bodhidharma: "Vast emptiness. Nothing sacred."

Emperor Wu, by now bewildered, and not a little indignant: "Who is this that stands before me?"

Bodhidharma: "I do not know."

(cf Nothing But Faith in Nothing (2014-09-07), Mantra - Vast Emptiness Everything Sacred (2015-03-17), No Knowing (2017-02-20), Nothing, Sacred (2018-06-07), ...) - ^z - 2020-02-09