Bodhidharma - The Founder of martial arts - The founder of Shaolin Kung Fu - A Biography
Bodhidharma (Tamil: போதிதர்மன், Telugu: భోధిధర్మా) was a Buddhist monk who lived during the 5th/6th century and is traditionally credited as the leading patriarch and transmitter of Zen (Chinese: Chán, Sanskrit: Dhyāna) to China. 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.
Birth and Early life:
Throughout Buddhist art, Bodhidharma is depicted as a rather ill-tempered, profusely bearded and wide-eyed barbarian. He is described as "The Blue-Eyed Barbarian" 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 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.
Though Dàoxuān wrote that Bodhidharma was a Tamilan from South India. Broughton (1999:2) Notes that Bodhidharma's royal pedigree implies that he was of the Kshatriya warrior caste. Mahajan (1972:705–707) argued that the Pallava dynasty was a Tamilian dynasty and Zvelebil (1987) proposed that Bodhidharma was born a prince of the Pallava dynasty in their capital of Kanchipuram. He was the 3rd prince of Pallava dynasty.
Bodhidharma was said to be originally named Bodhitara. His surname was Chadili. His Dhyāna teacher, Prajnatara, is said to have renamed him Bodhidharma.
Faure (1986) 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."
Tibetan sources give his name as "Bodhidharmottāra" or "Dharmottara", that is, "Highest teaching (dharma) of enlightenment".
Migration to China:
In Southeast AsiaAccording to Southeast Asian folklore, Bodhidharma travelled from south India by sea to Sumatra, Indonesia for the purpose of spreading the Mahayana doctrine. From Palembang, he went north into what are now Malaysia and Thailand. He travelled the region transmitting his knowledge of Buddhism and martial arts before eventually entering China through Vietnam. Malay legend holds that Bodhidharma introduced preset forms to silat.
The Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall tells us that in 527 during the Liang Dynasty, Bodhidharma, the first Patriarch of Chán, visited the Emperor Wu (Emperor Xiāo Yǎn (posthumous name Wǔdì) of Liáng 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 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 to China to become the first patriarch of China, 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 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 of the collection The Blue Cliff Record. 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) 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."
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 would provide a stimulant to help keep students of Chán awake during meditation.
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; or that his legs atrophied after nine years of sitting, which is why Japanese Bodhidharma dolls 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 ( or "Muscle/Tendon Change Classic") and the Xi Sui Jing. Copies and translations of the Yi Jin Jing 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.
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:
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 1624, by the Daoist priest Zining of Mt. Tiantai, and falsely attributed to Bodhidharma. Forged prefaces, attributed to the Tang general Li Jing and the Southern Song general Niu Gao were written. 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." Based on this, Bodhidharma was claimed to be the ancestor of Shaolin martial arts. This manuscript is full of errors, absurdities and fantastic claims; it cannot be taken as a legitimate source.
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.
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.
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. 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.
Film on Bodhidharma:
A tamil film '7am arivu' or '7th sense' is in relation to the story of Bodhidharma.