Little contemporary biographical information on Bodhidharma is extant, and subsequent accounts became layered with legend. Modern scholarship dates him to about the early 5th century. Several stories about Bodhidharma have become popular legends, which are still being used in the Ch'an and Zen-tradition. Part of a series on Chinese Buddhism. Silk Road transmission History of Chinese Buddhism. Buddhist Architecture in China.

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Little contemporary biographical information on Bodhidharma is extant, and subsequent accounts became layered with legend. Modern scholarship dates him to about the early 5th century. Several stories about Bodhidharma have become popular legends, which are still being used in the Ch'an and Zen-tradition.

Part of a series on Chinese Buddhism. Silk Road transmission History of Chinese Buddhism. Buddhist Architecture in China. There are two known extant accounts written by contemporaries of Bodhidharma. He gives the following account:. He traveled from the wild borderlands to China. He exclaimed: "Truly this is the work of spirits.

There is virtually no country I have not visited. Even the distant Buddha-realms lack this. Dumoulin gives another translation of the same text:. He came from rugged countries and was staying in the Middle Land. When he beheld how the golden dome sparkled in the sun, how its light reflected upon the surface of the clouds, how the precious bell housed the wind within itself, and how its voice rang beyond the heavens, he sang a hymn of praise: "Truly how wonderful it all is!

He was the third son of a great Indian king. Secondly, more detail is provided concerning Bodhidharma's journeys. Tanlin's original is imprecise about Bodhidharma's travels, saying only that he "crossed distant mountains and seas" before arriving in Wei.

From there he turned north and came to the Kingdom of Wei". Bodhidharma predicted the death of Songyun's ruler, a prediction which was borne out upon the latter's return.

Bodhidharma's tomb was then opened, and only a single sandal was found inside. Good deeds done with worldly intent bring good karma, but no merit. After Bodhidharma left, the Emperor asked the official in charge of the Imperial Annals about the encounter. The Official of the Annals then asked the Emperor if he still denied knowing who Bodhidharma was? The Emperor regretted his having let Bodhidharma leave and was going to dispatch a messenger to go and beg Bodhidharma to return.

The Official then said, "Your Highness, do not say to send out a messenger to go fetch him. The people of the entire nation could go, and he still would not return. After either being refused entry to the shaolin temple or being ejected after a short time, he lived in a nearby cave, where he "faced a wall for nine years, not speaking for the entire time".

The biographical tradition is littered with apocryphal tales about Bodhidharma's life and circumstances. In one version of the story, he is said to have fallen asleep seven years into his nine years of wall-gazing. Becoming angry with himself, he cut off his eyelids to prevent it from happening again. The most popular account relates that Bodhidharma was admitted into the Shaolin temple after nine years in the cave and taught there for some time.

Some Chinese accounts describe Bodhidharma as being disturbed by the poor physical shape of the Shaolin monks, after which he instructed them in techniques to maintain their physical condition as well as teaching meditation. He is said to have taught a series of external exercises called the Eighteen Arhat Hands Shi-ba Lohan Shou , and an internal practice called the Sinew Metamorphosis Classic. The Xi Sui Jing has been lost. Song Yun asked Bodhidharma where he was going, to which Bodhidharma replied "I am going home".

When asked why he was holding his shoe, Bodhidharma answered "You will know when you reach Shaolin monastery. Don't mention that you saw me or you will meet with disaster".

After arriving at the palace, Song Yun told the emperor that he met Bodhidharma on the way. The emperor said Bodhidharma was already dead and buried, and had Song Yun arrested for lying.

The grave was exhumed and was found to contain a single shoe. The monks then said "Master has gone back home" and prostrated three times.

For nine years he had remained and nobody knew him; Carrying a shoe in hand he went home quietly, without ceremony. Bodhidharma has been the subject of critical scientific research, which has shed new light on the traditional stories about Bodhidharma. According to him it is not possible to write an accurate biography of Bodhidharma:. McRae's standpoint accords with Yanagida's standpoint:. Given the present state of the sources, he considers it impossible to compile a reliable account of Bodhidharma's life".

Several scholars have suggested that the composed image of Bodhidharma depended on the combination of supposed historical information on various historical figures over several centuries.

Dumoulin comments on the three principal sources. The Persian heritage is doubtful, according to Dumoulin:. Given the ambiguityof geographical references in writings of this period, such a statement should not be taken too seriously". Dumoulin considers Tan-lin's account of Bodhidharma being "the third son of a great Brahman king" to be a later addition, and finds the exact meaning of "South Indian Brahman stock" unclear: [36].

These Chinese sources lend themselves to make inferences about Bodhidharma's origins. According to Tstuomu Kambe:. Faure notes that:. Buswell dates Bodhidharma abode in China approximately at the early 5th century. Traditionally Bodhidharma is being credited to be the founder of the martial arts at the Shaolin Temple. Bodhidharma is traditionally seen as introducing dhyana-practice in China.

The stanza, in fact, is not Bodhidharma's, but rather dates to the year Exactly what sort of practice Bodhidharma's "wall-gazing" was remains uncertain. The latter interpretation is particularly common among those working from a Ch'an standpoint. There have also, however, been interpretations of "wall-gazing" as a non-meditative phenomenon.

If you rely on it to practice, you will be able to cross over the world. Jingjue's account also makes explicit mention of "sitting meditation", or zazen [58] :. If, Mahamati, you say that because of the reality of words the objects are, this talk lacks in sense. Words are not known in all the Buddha-lands; words, Mahamati, are an artificial creation. In some Buddha-lands ideas are indicated by looking steadily, in others by gestures, in still others by a frown, by the movement of the eyes, by laughing, by yawning, or by the clearing of the throat, or by recollection, or by trembling.

Although the First Patriarch's line continued through another of the four, Dogen emphasizes that each of them had a complete understanding of the teaching. From this genre the typical Ch'an-lineage was developed:. The Ch'an biographical works, however, aimed to establish Ch'an as a legitimate school of Buddhism traceable to its Indian origins, and at the same time championed a particular form of Ch'an.

Historical accuracy was of little concern to the compilers; old legends were repeated, new stories were invented and reiterated until they too became legends". The earliest lineages described the lineage from Bodhidharma into the 5th to 7th generation of patriarchs.

Various records of different authors are known, which give a variation of transmission lines:. Mahakashyapa was the first, leading the line of transmission; Twenty-eight Fathers followed him in the West; The Lamp was then brought over the sea to this country; And Bodhidharma became the First Father here His mantle, as we all know, passed over six Fathers, And by them many minds came to see the Light.

Search this site. Hence any such attempt by modern biographers to reconstruct a definitive account of Bodhidharma's life is both doomed to failure and potentially no different in intent from the hagiographical efforts of premodern writers" [31]. As for the "Yi Jin Jing" Muscle Change Classic , a spurious text attributed to Bodhidharma and included in the legend of his transmitting martial arts at the temple, it was written in the Ming dynasty, in , by the Daoist priest Zining of Mt.

Tiantai, and falsely attributed to Bodhidharma. They say that, after Bodhidharma faced the wall for nine years at Shaolin temple, he left behind an iron chest; when the monks opened this chest they found the two books "Xi Sui Jing" Marrow Washing Classic and "Yi Jin Jing" within. The first book was taken by his disciple Huike, and disappeared; as for the second, "the monks selfishly coveted it, practicing the skills therein, falling into heterodox ways, and losing the correct purpose of cultivating the Real.

The Shaolin monks have made some fame for themselves through their fighting skill; this is all due to having obtained this manuscript. This manuscript is full of errors, absurdities and fantastic claims; it cannot be taken as a legitimate source. One of the most recently invented and familiar of the Shaolin historical narratives is a story that claims that the Indian monk Bodhidharma, the supposed founder of Chinese Chan Zen Buddhism, introduced boxing into the monastery as a form of exercise around a.

This story was quickly picked up by others and spread rapidly through publication in a popular contemporary boxing manual, Secrets of Shaolin Boxing Methods, and the first Chinese physical culture history published in That this story is clearly a twentieth-century invention is confirmed by writings going back at least years earlier, which mention both Bodhidharma and martial arts but make no connection between the two.

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He was the third son of a Tamil king of the Pallava Dynasty. According to Chinese legend, he also began the physical training of the Shaolin monks that led to the creation of Shaolinquan. However, martial arts historians have shown this legend stems from a 17th century qigong manual known as the Yijin Jing. Little contemporary biographical information on Bodhidharma is extant, and subsequent accounts became layered with legend, but some accounts state that he was from a Brahman family in southern India and possibly of royal lineage.


Bodhidharma - How Zen Came To China

Shaolin monks and disciples follow a unique practice among Buddhists in that they greet each other using only their right hand. This greeting is a tradition which dates back to Da Mo and his disciple, Hui Ke. Bodhidharma was very intelligent and was the favorite son of the king of a region that is now part of southern India. Bodhidharma had two older brothers who feared that their father, the king, would pass them over and bequeath the kingship to Bodhidharma.


The Story of Bodhidharma

Bodhidharma was the second Indian Buddhist monk to travel to Southern China. He was born to King Sugandha in the late 5th century. After Bodhidharma was born, he became a member of the warrior caste called Kshatriya. He grew up in a very religious atmosphere and later became a teacher.

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