Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk who lived during the 5th/6th century CE. He is traditionally credited as the transmitter of Ch'an (Sanskrit: Dhyāna, Japanese: Zen) to China, and regarded as its first Chinese patriarch. According to Chinese legend, he also began the physical training of the Shaolin monks that led to the creation of Shaolinquan.
Village of Birth: Somewhere is India.
Village of Alliance: Shaolin Temples.
Ninja Rank: Legendary Monk.
Specialty: Legendary Kung Fu Hidden Technics and Smooth perfect utilization of natural elements
Elements: : Perfected.
Hidden Shaulin Technics.
Perfect Elements Attacks.
Encounter with Emperor Xiāo Yǎn 蕭衍
The Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall tells us that in 527 during the Liang Dynasty, Bodhidharma, the first Patriarch of Chán, visited theEmperor Wu (Emperor Xiāo Yǎn 蕭衍 (posthumous name Wǔdì 武帝) of Liáng 梁 China), a fervent patron of Buddhism:
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 void."
Emperor Wu: "Then, who is standing before me?"
Bodhidharma: "I know not, Your Majesty."
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.
This encounter was included as the first kōan of the koan-collection The Blue Cliff Record.
Nine years of wall-gazing
Failing to make a favorable impression in Southern China, Bodhidharma is said to have travelled to the northern Chinese kingdom of Wei to the Shaolin Monastery. 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.] According to the legend, as his eyelids hit the floor the first tea plantssprang 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 dollshave no legs.
Huike cuts off his arm
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.
Skin, flesh, bone, marrow
Legend has it that Bodhidharma wished to return to India and called together his disciples and the following exchange took place:
Bodhidharma asked, “Can each of you say something to demonstrate your understanding?”
Dao Fu stepped forward and said, “It is not bound by words and phrases, nor is it separate from words and phrases. This is the function of the Tao.”
Bodhidharma: “You have attained my skin.”
The nun Zong Chi stepped up and said, “It is like a glorious glimpse of the realm of Akshobhya Buddha. Seen once, it need not be seen again.”
Bodhidharma; “You have attained my flesh.”
Dao Yu said, “The four elements are all empty. The five skandhas are without actual existence. Not a single dharma can be grasped.” Bodhidharma: “You have attained my bones.”
Finally, Huike came forth, bowed deeply in silence and stood up straight.
Bodhidharma said, “You have attained my marrow.”
Bodhidharma passed on the symbolic robe and bowl of dharma succession to Huike and, some texts claim, a copy of the Lankavatara Sutra. Bodhidharma then either returned to India or died.
According to GrandMaster Wong Kiew Kit of the Shaolin Wahnam Institute this legend is rich in symbolism:
In chi kung philosophy, chi flows at five levels: the levels of skin, flesh, meridians, internal organs and bone marrow. In the traditional Chinese medical paradigm, "bone marrow" is not just bone marrow. It includes the nervous system.
When Bodhidharma said that Hui Ke had received his marrow, he meant that Hui Ke had received his deepest teaching [...]
Saying that Bodhidharma's teaching was not bound by words showed only an intellectual understanding but not direct experience. He had just entered the path [...]
Saying that Bodhidharma's teaching was like a majestic glimpse of the realm of Akshobhya Buddha showed a Hinayana view, which Mahayana Buddhists regarded as only the preliminary teaching[...]
Saying that the four aggregates or dharmas that made up the phenomenal world are all empty, and the five sense organs are without existence showed a deeper Mahayana attainment that both self and phenomena are illusions. Yet this was not the deepest attainment because the student still used verbalizations, which would start the process of continuous thoughts resulting in the phenomenal world [...]
By saying nothing, Hui Ke showed his attainment of Bodhidharma's deepest teaching, where even verbalization was eliminated, indicating that Cosmic Reality is all.
Bodhidharma at Shaolin
See also: Patron Saint of Shaolin monastery
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 survive to the modern day. The Xi Sui Jing has been lost.
Travels of Bodhidharma
According 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.