Friday, October 28, 2011

The Story of Bodhidharma(An Indian): A Tamilian

Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk who lived during the 5th/6th century and is traditionally credited as the leading patriarch and transmitter of Zen 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.

Little contemporary biographical information on Bodhidharma is extant, and subsequent accounts became layered with legend. However Broughton notes that Bodhidharma's royal pedigree implies that he was of the Kshatriya warrior caste. Mahajan (705–707) argued that the Pallava dynasty was a Tamilian dynasty and proposed that Bodhidharma was born a prince of the Pallava dynasty in their capital of Kanchipuram Scholars have concluded his place of birth to be either Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu or Kerala, considering the martial arts background of kalaripayattu which originated and practiced in Kerala only , a more credible view is that Bodhidharma was actually from Kerala India. After becoming a Buddhist monk, Bodhidharma traveled to China.

The accounts differ on the date of his arrival, with one early account claiming that he arrived during the Liú Sòng Dynasty (420–479) and later accounts dating his arrival to the Liáng Dynasty (502–557). Bodhidharma was primarily active in the lands of the Northern Wèi Dynasty (386–534). Modern scholarship dates him to about the early 5th century. 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.

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.

In 495 AD, the Indian monk Ba Tuo, or Buddhabhadra, came to China teaching a form of Buddhism known as Xiao Sheng Buddhism. He was given land at the foot of Shaoshi mountain by Emperor Shao Wen and founded the Shaolin Temple on this land.

Around the time that Ba Tuo was founding the Shaolin Temple there was an Indian prince named Bodhidharma. Bodhidharma was very intelligent and was the favorite son of the king of India. Bodhidharma had two older brothers who feared that their father, the king, would pass them over and bequeath the kingship to Bodhidharma. In their jealousy, the two older brothers often disparaged Bodhidharma while talking with their father, hoping to turn him against their younger brother. The older brothers also attempted to assassinate Bodhidharma but Bodhidharma had very good karma and so the attempts were not successful. Despite being the favorite son of the king, Bodhidharma realized that he was not interested in a life of politics. He chose instead to study with the famous Buddhist master Prajnatara and become a Buddhist monk.

Bodhidharma trained with his master for many years. One day he asked his master, "Master, when you pass away, where should I go? What should I do?" His master replied that he should go to Zhen Dan, which was the name for China at that time. Years later, Bodhidharma's master passed away and Bodhidharma prepared to leave for China.

During the many years that Bodhidharma had studied as a monk, one of his older brothers had become king of India and that older brother's son had become king after him. The king of India was very fond of his uncle and wanted to make amends for the actions which Bodhidharma's older brothers had taken against him. He asked Bodhidharma to stay near the capital, where he could protect and care for him, but Bodhidharma knew that he must go to China as his master had said.