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Tuesday, 1 November 2011

THE STORY OF BODHIDHARMA

Bodhidharma (Tamil
Tamil language
Tamil is a Dravidian language spoken predominantly by Tamil people of the Indian subcontinent. It has official status in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and in the Indian union territory of Puducherry. Tamil is also an official language of Sri Lanka and Singapore...

:போதிதர்மன்) was a Buddhist
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

monk
Bhikkhu
A Bhikkhu , Bhikṣu is a fully ordained male Buddhist monastic. A female monastic is called Bhikkhuni . Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis keep many precepts: they live by the vinaya's framework of monastic discipline, the basic rules of which are called the patimokkha...

who lived during the 5th/6th century and is traditionally credited as the leading patriarch and transmitter of Zen
Zen
Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism. The word Zen is from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word Chán , which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be approximately translated as "meditation" or "meditative state".Zen emphasizes experiential Wisdom in the attainment...

(Chinese
Chinese language
Chinese or the Sinitic language is a language family consisting of languages which are mostly mutually unintelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

: Chán, Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism....

: Dhyāna) to China
China
China is seen variously as an ancient civilization extending over a large area in East Asia, a nation and/or a multinational entity.With nearly 4,000 years of continuous history, China is one of the world's oldest civilizations...

. According to Chinese legend, he also began the physical training of the Shaolin
Shaolin
The Shaolin Monastery or Shaolin Temple is a Chán Buddhist temple at Song Shan near Zhengzhou City Henan Province in Dengfeng, China. It is led by Venerable abbot Shi Yǒngxìn...

monks that led to the creation of Shaolinquan. However, martial arts historians have shown this legend stems from a 17th century qigong
Qigong
Qigong or chi kung is the Chinese philosophy and practice of aligning breath, physical activity and awareness for mental, spiritual and corporeal health, as well as the development of human potential...

manual known as the Yijin Jing.

Little contemporary biographical information on Bodhidharma is extant, and subsequent accounts became layered with legend, but most accounts agree that he was a Tamil
Tamil people
Tamil people , also called Tamils or Tamilians, are an ethnic group native to Tamil Nadu, India and the north-eastern region of Sri Lanka. Historic and post 19th century emigrant communities are also found across the world, notably Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, South Africa, Australia, Canada,...

from southern India's
South India
South India is the area encompassing India's states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Goa and Tamil Nadu as well as the union territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry, occupying 19.31% of India's area...

Pallava
Pallava
The Pallava dynasty was a dynasty of South India which ruled the northern Tamil Nadu region and the southern Andhra Pradesh region with their capital at Kanchipuram. The word Pallava in Sanskrit means branch.They originally belonged to the Guntur region of Andhra Pradesh. This area is still...

kingdom. Scholars have concluded his place of birth to be Kanchipuram
Kanchipuram
Kanchipuram, Kanchi, or Kancheepuram is a temple city and a municipality in Kanchipuram district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is a temple town and the headquarters of Kanchipuram district. In ancient times it was called Kanchi and Kanchiampathi. Former chief minister of Tamil Nadu and...

in Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu is one of the 28 states of India. Its capital and largest city is Chennai. Tamil Nadu lies in the southernmost part of the Indian Peninsula and is bordered by the union territory of Puducherry, and the states of Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh...

.

After becoming a Buddhist monk, Bodhidharma traveled to China
China
China is seen variously as an ancient civilization extending over a large area in East Asia, a nation and/or a multinational entity.With nearly 4,000 years of continuous history, China is one of the world's oldest civilizations...

. The accounts differ on the date of his arrival, with one early account claiming that he arrived during the Liú Sòng Dynasty
Liu Song Dynasty
The Liu Song Dynasty , also known as Song Dynasty , Former Song , or Southern Song , was first of the four Southern Dynasties in China, succeeding the Eastern Jin Dynasty and followed by the Southern Qi Dynasty....

(420–479) and later accounts dating his arrival to the Liáng Dynasty
Liang Dynasty
The Liang Dynasty , also known as Southern Liang Dynasty , was the third of Southern dynasties in China, followed by the Chen Dynasty...

(502–557). Bodhidharma was primarily active in the lands of the Northern Wèi Dynasty
Northern Wei
The Northern Wei Dynasty , also known as the Tuoba Wei , Later Wei , or Yuan Wei , was a dynasty which ruled northern China from 386 to 534 . It has been described as "part of an era of political turbulence and intense social and cultural change"...

(386–534). Modern scholarship dates him to about the early 5th century.

Throughout Buddhist art
Buddhist art
Buddhist art originated on the Indian subcontinent following the historical life of Siddhartha Gautama, 6th to 5th century BC, and thereafter evolved by contact with other cultures as it spread throughout Asia and the world....

, Bodhidharma is depicted as a rather ill-tempered, profusely bearded and wide-eyed barbarian. He is described as "The Blue-Eyed Barbarian
Barbarian
Barbarian and Savage are pejorative terms used to refer to a person who is perceived to be uncivilized. The word is often used either in a general reference to a member of a nation or ethnos, typically a tribal society as seen by an urban civilization either viewed as inferior, or admired as a...

" in Chinese texts.

The Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall (952) identifies Bodhidharma as the 28th Patriarch of Buddhism in an uninterrupted line that extends all the way back to the Buddha
Gautama Buddha
Siddhārtha Gautama was a spiritual teacher who founded Buddhism. In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit: सिद्धार्थ गौतम; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual teacher who founded Buddhism. In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the...

himself. D.T. Suzuki contends that Chán's growth in popularity during the 7th and 8th centuries attracted criticism that it had "no authorized records of its direct transmission from the founder of Buddhism" and that Chán historians made Bodhidharma the 28th patriarch of Buddhism in response to such attacks.

Contemporary accounts


There are two known extant accounts written by contemporaries of Bodhidharma.

Yáng Xuànzhī


The Record of the Buddhist Monasteries of Luoyang
Luoyang
Luoyang is a prefecture-level city in western Henan province, People's Republic of China. It borders the provincial capital of Zhengzhou to the east, Pingdingshan to the southeast, Nanyang to the south, Sanmenxia to the west, Jiyuan to the north, and Jiaozuo to the northeast.Situated on the...

(洛陽伽藍記 Luòyáng Qiélánjì), was compiled in 547 by Yáng Xuànzhī 楊衒之, a writer and translator of Mahāyāna
Mahayana
Mahāyāna is one of the two main existing branches of Buddhism and a term for classification of Buddhist philosophies and practice. Mahāyāna Buddhism originated in India....

Buddhist texts into the Chinese language.
At that time there was a monk of the Western Region named Bodhidharma, a Persian Central Asian. He traveled from the wild borderlands to China. Seeing the golden disks [on the pole on top of Yǒngníng's stupa
Stupa
A stupa is a mound-like structure containing Buddhist relics, typically the remains of Buddha, used by Buddhists as a place of worship....
] reflecting in the sun, the rays of light illuminating the surface of the clouds, the jewel-bells on the stupa blowing in the wind, the echoes reverberating beyond the heavens, he sang its praises. He exclaimed: "Truly this is the work of spirits." He said: "I am 150 years old, and I have passed through numerous countries. There is virtually no country I have not visited. Even the distant Buddha-realms lack this." He chanted homage and placed his palms together in salutation for days on end.

dates Bodhidharma's presence in Luoyang to between 516 and 526, when the temple referred to—Yǒngníngsì (永寧寺)—was at the height of its glory. Starting in 526, Yǒngníngsì suffered damage from a series of events, ultimately leading to its destruction in 534.

Tánlín


The second account was written by Tánlín (曇林; 506–574). Tánlín's brief biography of the "Dharma Master" is found in his preface to the Two Entrances and Four Acts, a text traditionally attributed to Bodhidharma, and the first text to identify Bodhidharma as South Indian:
The Dharma Master was a South Indian of the Western Region. He was the third son of a great Indian king of the Pallava Dynasty. His ambition lay in the Mahayana
Mahayana
Mahāyāna is one of the two main existing branches of Buddhism and a term for classification of Buddhist philosophies and practice. Mahāyāna Buddhism originated in India....
path, and so he put aside his white layman's robe for the black robe of a monk [...] Lamenting the decline of the true teaching in the outlands, he subsequently crossed distant mountains and seas, traveling about propagating the teaching in Han and Wei.

Tánlín's account was the first to mention that Bodhidharma attracted disciples, specifically mentioning Dàoyù (道育) and Huìkě
Huike
Dazu Huike is considered the Second Patriarch of Chinese Chán and the twenty-ninth since Gautama Buddha.-Introduction:As with most of the early Chán patriarchs, very little firm data is available about his life...

(慧可), the latter of whom would later figure very prominently in the Bodhidharma literature.

Tánlín has traditionally been considered a disciple of Bodhidharma, but it is more likely that he was a student of Huìkě, who in turn was a student of Bodhidharma.

Dàoxuān


In the 7th-century historical work Further Biographies of Eminent Monks (續高僧傳 Xù gāosēng zhuàn), Dàoxuān (道宣; 596-667) possibly drew on Tanlin's preface as a basic source, but made several significant additions:
Firstly, Dàoxuān adds more detail concerning Bodhidharma's origins, writing that he was of "South Indian Brahman stock" (南天竺婆羅門種 nán tiānzhú póluómén zhŏng).

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. Dàoxuān's account, however, implies "a specific itinerary": "He first arrived at Nan-yüeh
Nanyue
Nanyue or Nam Viet was an ancient kingdom that consisted of parts of the modern Chinese provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi, and Yunnan and northern Vietnam. Nanyue was established in 204 BC at the final collapse of the Qin Dynasty by Zhao Tuo, who was the military commander of Nanhai Commandery at...

during the Sung period. From there he turned north and came to the Kingdom of Wei". This implies that Bodhidharma had travelled to China by sea, and that he had crossed over the Yangtze River
Yangtze River
The Yangtze, Yangzi or Cháng Jiāng is the longest river in Asia, and the third-longest in the world. It flows for from the glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau in Qinghai eastward across southwest, central and eastern China before emptying into the East China Sea at Shanghai. It is also one of the...

.

Thirdly, Dàoxuān suggests a date for Bodhidharma's arrival in China. He writes that Bodhidharma makes landfall in the time of the Song
Liu Song Dynasty
The Liu Song Dynasty , also known as Song Dynasty , Former Song , or Southern Song , was first of the four Southern Dynasties in China, succeeding the Eastern Jin Dynasty and followed by the Southern Qi Dynasty....

, thus making his arrival no later than the time of the Song's fall to the Southern Qi Dynasty
Southern Qi
The Southern Qi Dynasty was the second of the Southern dynasties in China, followed by the Liang Dynasty. During its 23-year history, the dynasty was largely filled with instability, as after the death of the capable Emperor Gao and Emperor Wu, Emperor Wu's grandson Xiao Zhaoye was assassinated...

in 479.

Finally, Dàoxuān provides information concerning Bodhidharma's death. Bodhidharma, he writes, died at the banks of the Luo River, where he was interred by his disciple Huike
Huike
Dazu Huike is considered the Second Patriarch of Chinese Chán and the twenty-ninth since Gautama Buddha.-Introduction:As with most of the early Chán patriarchs, very little firm data is available about his life...

, possibly in a cave. According to Dàoxuān's chronology, Bodhidharma's death must have occurred prior to 534, the date of the Northern Wei Dynasty's fall, because Huike subsequently leaves Luoyang for Ye
Ye
Ye can refer to:* Ye , a form of the second-person, personal pronoun "you"* Archaic spelling of the definite article "þe" , used by early printers when the obsolescent letter "þ" was not available...

. Furthermore, citing the shore of the Luo River as the place of death might possibly suggest that Bodhidharma died in the mass executions at Heyin 河陰 in 528. Supporting this possibility is a report in the Taishō shinshū daizōkyō
Chinese Buddhist canon
The Chinese Buddhist Canon , which means Great Treasury of Scriptures, is the total body of Buddhist literature deemed canonical in China, Korea and Japan...

stating that a Buddhist monk was among the victims at Héyīn.

Epitaph for Fărú


The idea of a patriarchal lineage
Lineage (Buddhism)
An authentic lineage in Buddhism is the uninterrupted transmission of the Buddha's Dharma from teacher to disciple.The transmission itself can be for example oral, scriptural, through signs, or directly from one mind to another....

in Chán dates back to the epitaph
Epitaph
An epitaph is a short text honoring a deceased person, strictly speaking that is inscribed on their tombstone or plaque, but also used figuratively. Some are specified by the dead person beforehand, others chosen by those responsible for the burial...

for Fărú (法如 638–689), a disciple of the 5th patriarch Hóngrĕn (弘忍 601–674), which gives a line of descent identifying Bodhidharma as the first patriarch.

Yǒngjiā Xuánjué


According to the Song of Enlightenment (證道歌 Zhèngdào gē) by Yǒngjiā Xuánjué (665-713)—one of the chief disciples of Huìnéng
Huineng
Dajian Huineng was a Chinese Chán monastic who is one of the most important figures in the entire tradition, according to standard Zen hagiographies...

, sixth Patriarch of Chán—Bodhidharma was the 28th Patriarch of Buddhism in a line of descent from Śākyamuni Buddha via his disciple Mahākāśyapa
Mahakasyapa
Mahākāśyapa or Kāśyapa was a brahman of Magadha, who became one of the principal disciples of Śākyamuni Buddha and who convened and directed the first council. Mahākāśyapa is one of the most revered of the Buddha's early disciples, foremost in ascetic practices...

, and the first Patriarch of Chán:
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.

The idea of a line of descent from Śākyamuni Buddha is the basis for the distinctive lineage tradition of the Chán school.

Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall


In the Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall (祖堂集 Zǔtángjí) of 952, the elements of the traditional Bodhidharma story are in place. Bodhidharma is said to have been a disciple of Prajñātāra
Prajnatara
Prajñādhara was the twenty-seventh patriarch of Indian Buddhism, according to the Chinese Chan lineage. He traveled around India preaching the Buddha's teachings. He was the guru, or teacher, of Bodhidharma....

, thus establishing the latter as the 27th patriarch in India. After a three-year journey, Bodhidharma reaches China in 527 during the Liang Dynasty
Liang Dynasty
The Liang Dynasty , also known as Southern Liang Dynasty , was the third of Southern dynasties in China, followed by the Chen Dynasty...

(as opposed to the Song period of the 5th century, as in Dàoxuān). The Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall includes Bodhidharma's encounter with Emperor Wu, which was first recorded around 758 in the appendix to a text by Shen-hui (神會), a disciple of Huineng.

Finally, as opposed to Daoxuan's figure of "over 150 years," the Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall states that Bodhidharma died at the age of 150. He was then buried on Mount Xiong'er (熊耳山 Xióngĕr Shān) to the west of Luoyang. However, three years after the burial, in the Pamir Mountains
Pamir Mountains
The Pamir Mountains are a mountain range in Central Asia formed by the junction or knot of the Himalayas, Tian Shan, Karakoram, Kunlun, and Hindu Kush ranges...

, Sòngyún (宋雲)—an official of one of the later Wei kingdoms—encountered Bodhidharma, who claimed to be returning to India and was carrying a single sandal. 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.

Insofar as, according to the Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall, Bodhidharma left the Liang court in 527 and relocated to Mount Song
Mount Song
Mount Song, known in Chinese as Song Shan , is one of the Five Sacred Mountains of Taoism and is located in Henan province on the south bank of the Yellow River in China...

near Luoyang and the Shaolin Monastery, where he "faced a wall for nine years, not speaking for the entire time", his date of death can have been no earlier than 536. Moreover, his encounter with the Wei official indicates a date of death no later than 554, three years before the fall of the last Wei kingdom.

Dàoyuán


Subsequent to the Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall, the only dated addition to the biography of Bodhidharma is in the Jingde Records of the Transmission of the Lamp
Transmission of the Lamp
The Transmission of the Lamp is a compilation of biographies of prominent Buddhist monks produced in the Song dynasty by Shi Daoyuan .The first two characters of the title are the Song dynasty reign name , which dates the work to between 1004 and 1007 CE...

(景德傳燈錄 Jĭngdé chuándēng lù, published 1004 CE
Common Era
Common Era, abbreviated as CE, is a designation for the world's most commonly used year-numbering system.The numbering of years using Common Era notation is identical to the numbering used with "Before Christ / Anno Domini" notation, being the current year in both notations and neither using a...

), by Dàoyuán (道原), in which it is stated that Bodhidharma's original name had been Bodhitāra but was changed by his master Prajñātāra.

Bodhidharma's origins


Though Dàoxuān wrote that Bodhidharma was "of South Indian Brahman stock," notes that Bodhidharma's royal pedigree implies that he was of the Kshatriya
Kshatriya
Kshatriya or Kashtriya, meaning warrior, is one of the four varnas in Hinduism. शर्म ब्राह्मणस्य वर्म क्षत्रियस्य गुप्तेति वैश्यस्य...

warrior caste. argued that the Pallava
Pallava
The Pallava dynasty was a dynasty of South India which ruled the northern Tamil Nadu region and the southern Andhra Pradesh region with their capital at Kanchipuram. The word Pallava in Sanskrit means branch.They originally belonged to the Guntur region of Andhra Pradesh. This area is still...

dynasty was a Tamilian dynasty and proposed that Bodhidharma was born a prince of the Pallava dynasty in their capital of Kanchipuram
Kanchipuram
Kanchipuram, Kanchi, or Kancheepuram is a temple city and a municipality in Kanchipuram district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is a temple town and the headquarters of Kanchipuram district. In ancient times it was called Kanchi and Kanchiampathi. Former chief minister of Tamil Nadu and...

.

Yáng Xuànzhī's eyewitness account identifies Bodhidharma as a Persian
Persian people
The Persian people or People of Iran are part of the Iranian peoples who speak the modern Persian language and closely akin Iranian peoples' languages...

(波斯國胡人 bō-sī guó hú rén) from the Western Regions
Western Regions
The Western Regions or Xiyu was a historical name specified in the Chinese chronicles between the 3rd century BC to 8th century AD that referred to the regions west of Jade Gate, most often Central Asia or sometimes more specifically the easternmost portion of it...

(西域 xī yù, usually referring to Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

), and notes that an Iranian Buddhist monk making his way to North China via the Silk Road is more likely than that of a South Indian master making his way by sea. also states that the language Yang uses in his description of Bodhidharma is specifically associated with "Central Asia and particularly to peoples of Iranian extraction" and that of "an Iranian speaker who hailed from somewhere in Central Asia". However, notes that Yáng may have actually been referring to another monk named Boddhidharma, not related to the historical founder of Chan Buddhism.

Bodhidharma's name


Bodhidharma was said to be originally named Bodhitara. His surname was Chadili. His Dhyāna
Dhyāna in Buddhism
Dhyāna in Sanskrit or jhāna in Pāli can refer to either meditation or meditative states. Equivalent terms are "Chán" in modern Chinese, "Zen" in Japanese, "Seon" in Korean, "Thien" in Vietnamese, and "Samten" in Tibetan....

teacher, Prajnatara, is said to have renamed him Bodhidharma.

notes that "Bodhidharma’s name appears sometimes truncated as Bodhi, or more often as Dharma (Ta-mo). In the first case, it may be confused with another of his rivals, Bodhiruci
Bodhiruci
Bodhiruci was a Buddhist monk and esoteric master from North India . He became very active as a teacher following his arrival in Loyang, China in 508 ....

."

Tibetan sources give his name as "Bodhidharmottāra" or "Dharmottara", that is, "Highest teaching (dharma) of enlightenment".

Meditation


Tanlin, in the preface to Two Entrances and Four Acts, and Daoxuan, in the Further Biographies of Eminent Monks, mention a practice of Bodhidharma's termed "wall-gazing" (壁觀 bìguān). Both Tanlin and Daoxuan associate this "wall-gazing" with "quieting [the] mind" (安心 ān xīn). Elsewhere, Daoxuan also states: "The merits of Mahāyāna wall-gazing are the highest". These are the first mentions in the historical record of what may be a type of meditation
Buddhist meditation
Buddhist meditation refers to the meditative practices associated with the religion and philosophy of Buddhism.Core meditation techniques have been preserved in ancient Buddhist texts and have proliferated and diversified through teacher-student transmissions. Buddhists pursue meditation as part of...

being ascribed to Bodhidharma.

In the Two Entrances and Four Acts, traditionally attributed to Bodhidharma, the term "wall-gazing" also appears:
Those who turn from delusion back to reality, who meditate on walls, the absence of self and other, the oneness of mortal and sage, and who remain unmoved even by scriptures are in complete and unspoken agreement with reason.

Exactly what sort of practice Bodhidharma's "wall-gazing" was remains uncertain. Nearly all accounts have treated it either as an undefined variety of meditation, as Daoxuan and Dumoulin, or as a variety of seated meditation akin to the zazen
Zazen
Zazen is at the heart of Zen Buddhist practice. The aim of zazen is just sitting, "opening the hand of thought", that is, suspending all judgmental thinking and letting words, ideas, images and thoughts pass by without getting involved in them. This is done either through koans, Rinzai's primary...

(坐禪; Chinese: zuòchán) that later became a defining characteristic of Chán; the latter interpretation is particularly common among those working from a Chán standpoint. There have also, however, been interpretations of "wall-gazing" as a non-meditative phenomenon.

The Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra


The Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra
Lankavatara Sutra
The Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra is a sutra of Mahāyāna Buddhism. The sūtra recounts a teaching primarily between the Buddha and a bodhisattva named Mahāmati...

, one of the Mahāyāna Buddhist
Mahayana sutras
Mahāyāna sutras are a broad genre of Buddhist scriptures that are accepted as canonical by the various traditions of Mahāyāna Buddhism. These are largely preserved in the Chinese Buddhist canon, the Tibetan Buddhist canon, and in extant Sanskrit manuscripts...

sūtras
Sutra
Sūtra literally means Peace, a thread or line that holds things together, and more metaphorically refers to an aphorism or a collection of such aphorisms in the form of a manual...

, is a highly "difficult and obscure" text whose basic thrust is to emphasize "the inner enlightenment
Bodhi
Bodhi is both a Pāli and Sanskrit word traditionally translated into English with the word "enlightenment". In Buddhism it is the knowledge possessed by a Buddha into the nature of things...

that does away with all duality and is raised above all distinctions". It is among the first and most important texts in the Yogācāra
Yogacara
Yogācāra is an influential school of Buddhist philosophy and psychology emphasizing phenomenology and ontology through the interior lens of meditative and yogic practices. It developed within Indian Mahāyāna Buddhism in about the 4th century CE...

, or "Consciousness-only", school of Mahāyāna Buddhism.

One of the recurrent emphases in the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra is a lack of reliance on words to effectively express reality:
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.


In contrast to the ineffectiveness of words, the sūtra instead stresses the importance of the "self-realization" that is "attained by noble wisdom" and occurs "when one has an insight into reality as it is": "The truth is the state of self-realization and is beyond categories of discrimination". The sūtra goes on to outline the ultimate effects of an experience of self-realization:
[The Bodhisattva
Bodhisattva
In Buddhism, a bodhisattva is either an enlightened existence or an enlightenment-being or, given the variant Sanskrit spelling satva rather than sattva, "heroic-minded one for enlightenment ." Another term is "wisdom-being." It is anyone who, motivated by...
] will become thoroughly conversant with the noble truth of self-realization, will become a perfect master of his own mind, will conduct himself without effort, will be like a gem reflecting a variety of colours, will be able to assume the body of transformation, will be able to enter into the subtle minds of all beings, and, because of his firm belief in the truth of Mind-only, will, by gradually ascending the stages, become established in Buddhahood.

One of the fundamental Chán texts attributed to Bodhidharma is a four-line stanza whose first two verses echo the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtras disdain for words and whose second two verses stress the importance of the insight into reality achieved through "self-realization":
A special transmission outside the scriptures,
Not founded upon words and letters;
By pointing directly to [one's] mind
It lets one see into [one's own true] nature and [thus] attain Buddhahood.

The stanza, in fact, is not Bodhidharma's, but rather dates to the year 1108. Nonetheless, there are earlier texts which explicitly associate Bodhidharma with the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra. Daoxuan, for example, in a late recension of his biography of Bodhidharma's successor Huike, has the sūtra as a basic and important element of the teachings passed down by Bodhidharma:
In the beginning Dhyana Master Bodhidharma took the four-roll Laṅkā Sūtra, handed it over to Huike, and said: "When I examine the land of China, it is clear that there is only this sutra. If you rely on it to practice, you will be able to cross over the world."

Another early text, the Record of the Masters and Disciples of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra (楞伽師資記 Léngqié shīzī jì) of Jìngjué (淨覺; 683–750), also mentions Bodhidharma in relation to this text. Jingjue's account also makes explicit mention of "sitting meditation", or zazen:
For all those who sat in meditation, Master Bodhi[dharma] also offered expositions of the main portions of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra, which are collected in a volume of twelve or thirteen pages, [...] bearing the title of Teaching of [Bodhi-]Dharma.

In other early texts, the school that would later become known as Chán is sometimes referred to as the "Laṅkāvatāra school" (楞伽宗 Léngqié zōng).

In Southeast Asia


According to Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India and north of Australia...

n folklore, Bodhidharma travelled from south India
South India
South India is the area encompassing India's states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Goa and Tamil Nadu as well as the union territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry, occupying 19.31% of India's area...

by sea to Sumatra, Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia comprises 17,508 islands and thirty three provinces. With over 238 million people, it is the world's fourth most populous country, and has the world's largest population of Muslims. Indonesia is...

for the purpose of spreading the Mahayana
Mahayana
Mahāyāna is one of the two main existing branches of Buddhism and a term for classification of Buddhist philosophies and practice. Mahāyāna Buddhism originated in India....

doctrine. From Palembang
Palembang
Palembang is the capital city of South Sumatra Province in Indonesia. Palembang is one of the oldest cities in Indonesia with a lot of history as a capital of a maritime empire. Located on the Musi River banks on the east coast of southern Sumatra island, it has an area of 400.61 square kilometres...

, he went north into what are now Malaysia
Malaysia
Malaysia .ogg|m|ə|ˈ|l|eɪ|s|i|ə}} ) is a federal constitutional monarchy in Southeast Asia. It consists of thirteen states and three federal territories and has a total landmass of . It is separated by the South China Sea into two regions, Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo...

and Thailand
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand and formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the center of Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by the Andaman Sea and...

. He travelled the region transmitting his knowledge of Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

and martial arts
Martial arts
Martial arts are extensive systems of codified practices and traditions of combat. Martial arts all have similar objectives: to physically defeat other persons or defend oneself or others from physical threat...

before eventually entering China
China
China is seen variously as an ancient civilization extending over a large area in East Asia, a nation and/or a multinational entity.With nearly 4,000 years of continuous history, China is one of the world's oldest civilizations...

through Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam, sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam , is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by People's Republic of China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea,...

. Malay legend holds that Bodhidharma introduced preset forms to silat
Silat
Silat Melayu is a blanket term for the types of silat created in peninsular Southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei and Singapore. The silat tradition has deep roots in Malay culture and can trace its origin to the dawn of Malay civilization, 2000 years ago...

.

Encounter with Emperor Xiāo Yǎn 蕭衍


The Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall tells us that in 527 during the Liang Dynasty
Liang Dynasty
The Liang Dynasty , also known as Southern Liang Dynasty , was the third of Southern dynasties in China, followed by the Chen Dynasty...

, Bodhidharma, the first Patriarch of Chán, visited the Emperor Wu
Emperor Wu of Liang
Emperor Wu of Liang , personal name Xiao Yan , courtesy name Shuda , nickname Lian'er , was the founding emperor of the Chinese Liang Dynasty...

(Emperor Xiāo Yǎn 蕭衍 (posthumous name Wǔdì 武帝) of Liáng 梁 China), a fervent patron of Buddhism. The emperor asked Bodhidharma, "How much karmic merit have I earned for ordaining Buddhist monks, building monasteries, having sutras copied, and commissioning Buddha
Buddhahood
In Buddhism, buddhahood is the state of perfect enlightenment attained by a buddha .In Buddhism, the term buddha usually refers to one who has become enlightened...

images?" Bodhidharma answered, "None. Good deeds done with worldly intent bring good karma, but no merit." The emperor then asked Bodhidharma, "So what is the highest meaning of noble truth?" Bodhidharma answered, "There is no noble truth, there is only void." The emperor then asked Bodhidharma, "Then, who is standing before me?" Bodhidharma answered, "I know not, Your Majesty."

From then on, the emperor refused to listen to whatever Bodhidharma had to say. Although Bodhidharma came from India
India
India , conventional long name Republic of India , is a state located in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

to China
China
China is seen variously as an ancient civilization extending over a large area in East Asia, a nation and/or a multinational entity.With nearly 4,000 years of continuous history, China is one of the world's oldest civilizations...

to become the first patriarch of China
China
China is seen variously as an ancient civilization extending over a large area in East Asia, a nation and/or a multinational entity.With nearly 4,000 years of continuous history, China is one of the world's oldest civilizations...

, the emperor refused to recognize him. Bodhidharma knew that he would face difficulty in the near future, but had the emperor been able to leave the throne and yield it to someone else, he could have avoided his fate of starving to death.

According to the teaching, Emperor Wu's past life was as a bhikshu. While he cultivated in the mountains, a monkey would always steal and eat the things he planted for food, as well as the fruit in the trees. One day, he was able to trap the monkey in a cave and blocked the entrance of the cave with rocks, hoping to teach the monkey a lesson. However, after two days, the bhikshu found that the monkey had died of starvation.

Supposedly, that monkey was reincarnated into Hou Jing
Hou Jing
Hou Jing , courtesy name Wanjing , was a general for the Chinese states Northern Wei, Eastern Wei, and Liang Dynasty, and briefly, after controlling the Liang imperial regime for several years, usurped the Liang throne, establishing a state of Han...

of the Northern Wei Dynasty, who led his soldiers to attack Nanjing. After Nanjing was taken, the emperor was held in captivity in the palace and was not provided with any food, and was left to starve to death. Though Bodhidharma wanted to save him and brought forth a compassionate mind toward him, the emperor failed to recognize him, so there was nothing Bodhidharma could do. Thus, Bodhidharma had no choice but to leave Emperor Wu to die and went into meditation in a cave for nine years.

This encounter would later form the basis of the first kōan
Koan
A kōan }}; ) is a fundamental part of the history and lore of Zen Buddhism. It consists of a story, dialogue, question, or statement, the meaning of which cannot be understood by rational thinking but may be accessible through intuition...

of the collection The Blue Cliff Record
Blue Cliff Record
The Blue Cliff Record ; Vietnamese: Bích nham lục ) is a collection of Chán Buddhist koans originally compiled in China during the Song dynasty in 1125 and then expanded into its present form by the Chán master Yuanwu Keqin .The book includes Yuanwu's annotations and commentary on Xuedou...

. However that version of the story is somewhat different. In the Blue Cliff's telling of the story, there is no claim that Emperor Wu did not listen to Bodhidharma after the Emperor was unable to grasp the meaning. Instead, Bodhidharma left the presence of the Emperor once Bodhidharma saw that the Emperor was unable to understand. Then Bodhidharma went across the river to the kingdom of Wei.

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? When the Emperor said he didn't know, the Official said, "This was the Great-being Guanyin (i.e., the Mahasattva Avalokiteśvara
Avalokitesvara
Avalokiteśvara is a bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. He is one of the more widely revered bodhisattvas in mainstream Mahayana Buddhism....

) transmitting the imprint of the Buddha's Heart-Mind."

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."

Nine years of wall-gazing


Failing to make a favorable impression in Southern China, Bodhidharma is said to have traveled to the northern Chinese kingdom of Wei to the Shaolin Monastery. After either being refused entry to the 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. According to the legend, as his eyelids hit the floor the first tea plants sprang up; and thereafter tea
Tea
Tea is the agricultural product of the leaves, leaf buds, and internodes of various cultivars and sub-varieties of the Camellia sinensis plant, processed and cured using various methods. "Tea" also refers to the aromatic beverage prepared from the cured leaves by combination with hot or boiling...

would provide a stimulant to help keep students of Chán awake during meditation
Zazen
Zazen is at the heart of Zen Buddhist practice. The aim of zazen is just sitting, "opening the hand of thought", that is, suspending all judgmental thinking and letting words, ideas, images and thoughts pass by without getting involved in them. This is done either through koans, Rinzai's primary...

.

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. However, other versions report that he "passed away, seated upright"; or that he disappeared, leaving behind the Yi Jin Jing
Yì Jin Jing
The Yijin Jing is a Qigong manual containing a series of exercises, coordinated with specific breathing and mental concentration, said to enhance physical health dramatically when practiced consistently. In the modern day there are many translations and distinct sets of exercises all said to be...

; or that his legs atrophied after nine years of sitting, which is why Japanese Bodhidharma dolls
Daruma doll
The , also known as a Dharma doll, is a hollow, round, Japanese doll modeled after Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism. These dolls, though typically red and depicting a bearded man , vary greatly in color and design depending on region and artist...

have no legs.

Bodhidharma at Shaolin



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. In addition, after his departure from the temple, two manuscripts by Bodhidharma were said to be discovered inside the temple: the Yijin Jing (易筋經 or "Muscle/Tendon Change Classic") and the Xi Sui Jing. Copies and translations of the Yi Jin Jing
Yì Jin Jing
The Yijin Jing is a Qigong manual containing a series of exercises, coordinated with specific breathing and mental concentration, said to enhance physical health dramatically when practiced consistently. In the modern day there are many translations and distinct sets of exercises all said to be...

survive to the modern day, though many modern historians believe it to be of much more recent origin. The Xi Sui Jing has been lost.

While Bodhidharma was born into the warrior caste in India and thus certainly studied and must have been proficient in self-defense, it is unlikely that he contributed to the development of self-defense technique specifically within China. However, the legend of his education of the monks at Shaolin in techniques for physical conditioning would imply (if true) a substantial contribution to Shaolin knowledge that contributed later to their renown for fighting skill.
However, both the attribution of Shaolin boxing to Bodhidharma and the authenticity of the Yi Jin Jing itself have been discredited by some historians including Tang Hao, Xu Zhen and Matsuda Ryuchi. This argument is summarized by modern historian Lin Boyuan in his Zhongguo wushu shi as follows:



The oldest available copy was published in 1827 and the composition of the text itself has been dated to 1624. Even then, the association of Bodhidharma with martial arts only becomes widespread as a result of the 1904–1907 serialization of the novel The Travels of Lao Ts'an in Illustrated Fiction Magazine.

Teaching


In one legend, Bodhidharma refused to resume teaching until his would-be student, Dazu Huike, who had kept vigil for weeks in the deep snow outside of the monastery, cut off his own left arm to demonstrate sincerity.

After death


Three years after Bodhidharma's death, Ambassador Song Yun of northern Wei is said to have seen him walking while holding a shoe at the Pamir Heights
Pamir Mountains
The Pamir Mountains are a mountain range in Central Asia formed by the junction or knot of the Himalayas, Tian Shan, Karakoram, Kunlun, and Hindu Kush ranges...

. 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. At the Shaolin Temple, the monks informed them that Bodhidharma was dead and had been buried in a hill behind the temple. 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.

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