Bodhidharma, transliterated as Pu Ti Da Mo or simply DaMo in China and known as Daruma Daishi in Japan, was an Enlightened Buddhist Master who is credited with bringing Zen Buddhism and reviving Buddhism in China and founding Shaolin martial arts.
Bodhidharma began his life as a royal prince in the Sardilli family in 482 A.D. in Southern India Kanchi, the capital of the Southern Indian kingdom of Pallava. He was a Brahman by birth, the third child of King Sugandha, was a member of the Kshatriya or warrior caste, and had his childhood in Conjeeveram (also Kanchipuram or Kancheepuram), a Buddhist province south of Madras. In the midst of his education and training to continue in his father's footsteps as king, Bodhidharma chanced to receive the Buddha's teachings. He immediately got the truth in Lord Buddha's words and decided to give up his esteemed position and inheritance to study with the famous Buddhist teacher Prajnatara. Bodhidharma rapidly progressed in his Buddhist learning, and in time, Prajnatara sent Bodhidharma to China, where Buddhism had begun to perish, to introduce the Sarvastivada sect Buddhist teachings to the Chinese. Bodhidharma arrived in China after a brutal trek over Tibet's Himalayan Mountains surviving both the extreme elements and treacherous bandits.
Upon arrival in China, the Emperor Wu Di, a devout
Buddhist himself, requested an audience with Bodhidharma (in 520 A.D.).
During their initial meeting, Wu Di asked Bodhidharma what merit he
had achieved for all of his good deeds for building numerous temples
and endowing monasteries throughout his empowered territorry.
Bodhidharma, in true Mahayana spirit, was moved to pity when he saw the terrible physical condition that most monks were so out of shape from a life of study spent copying scrolls and
practiced long-term meditation retreats, which made them spiritually strong but physically weak. Their meditation method caused sleepiness among the monks. Remembering the experience of young Shakyamuni, who almost died from practicing asceticism, he informed the monks that he would teach them one set of practicing forms and approach originated from Buddha's dharma incorporating a two-part program of meditation and physical training.
Bodhidharma created an exercise program for the monks which involved physical techniques that
were efficient in strengthening the body, and eventually, could be used practically in self-defense. When Bodhidharma instituted these practices, his primary concern was to make the monks physically strong enough to withstand both their isolated lifestyle and to demand training that meditation requires. It turned out that the techniques served a dual purpose as a very efficient fighting system, which evolved into a marital arts style called Shaolin Kung Fu. Martial arts training helped the monks to defend themselves against invading warlords and bandits. Bodhidharma taught that martial arts should be used for self-defense, and never to hurt or injure others needlessly. In fact, it is one of the oldest Shaolin axioms that "one who engages in combat has already lost the battle."
Bodhidharma, a member of the Indian Kshatriya warrior class and a master of staff fighting, developed a system of 18 dynamic tension exercises. These movements found their way into print in 550 A.D. as the Yi Gin Ching, or Changing Tendon and Washing Marrow Classic. We know part of the system today as the Lohan (Priest-Scholar) 18 Hand Movements, the basis of Chinese Temple Boxing and the Shaolin Arts.
In fact, Tendon here means meridians in Acupuncture
theory, and here generally it indicates twelve regular
meridians and eight special meridians. Marrow means heart here. In
fact, Acupuncture theory originated from Tao-pursuing practice and
meridians play the key role for human’s corporeal existence
which has been verified in the West. Changing meridians, in fact,
implies to open up all channels throughout the body and get rid off
all impedance in them. When such aim achieved, Qi can arise naturally
to play its deserved role and gradually change the corporeal body
in every aspect. When all channels are opened up and Qi arises in
abundance and circulates fluently without any hindrance patients can
own the power to first resist the invasion of diseases and later such
two countering forces can reach a balance. Yet, if patients can persist
in the cause without any intermission the time will come that their
internal defense power can overwhelm any existence of diseases. As
a result, people can gain the long-standing health well being physically.
The legend states that Bodhidharma settled in the
Shaolin Temple of Songshan in Hunan Province in 526 A.D. "The
First Buddha", by the order of Emperor Wei on the Shao Shik Peak
of Sonn Mountain in Teng Fon Hsien, Hunan Province. The Temple was
for religious training and meditation only. Martial arts training
did not begin until the arrival of Bodhidharma in 526 A.D. Bodhidharma
died in 539 A.D. at the Shaolin Temple at age 57.
Chinese official reported encountering Bodhidharma
in the mountains of Central Asia. Bodhidharma was reportedly carrying
a staff from which hung a single sandal, and he told the official
that he was on his way back to India. When this story reached his
home, his fellow monks decided to open Bodhidharma's tomb. Inside
there was nothing but a sandal. In fact, in Chinese alchemy theory,
such skill is common and nothing special. Yet for general people,
it is impossible. Why? People only know existence and never know nonexistence.
Only both of them can constitute an entity in combination, with one
the part forming exterior and another interior.
Bodhidharma was an extraordinary being who
remains an example and an inspiration to practitioners today. He is
the source of many miraculous stories of ferocity and dedication to
the Tao. One such legend states that Bodhidharma became frustrated
once while meditating because he had fallen asleep. He was so upset
that he cut off his eyelids to prevent this interruption in meditation
from ever happening again. Yet another legend states that Bodhidharma
meditated for so long that his arms and legs eventually fell off.
This is a reminder of the true dedication and devotion necessary in
Please feel free to contact
Mr. Wang Tao
Copyrightę Wudang Taoist Internal Alchemy. All rights reserved.