Bodhidharma‘s name counted among the greatest Buddhist monks of China. There he is famous as Damo in China. Japanese called him Daruma. He was Bodhidharma who brought the Lord Buddha’s meditation path to China. Due to the influence of the local language of China, the Sanskrit word ‘Dhyaan’ had changed to ‘chan’. So now it is famous as the Chan Buddhism in China. When this Chan Buddhism reached to Japan and Cambodia, then there, Chan Buddhism had changed as the name of Zen Buddhism.
Thus, Bodhidharma was the great Buddhist monk who took the Gautama Buddha’s meditation (Dhyana) to China and established it there as the Chan Buddhism. In Chinese Buddhist texts, many interesting stories are available to read about Bodhidharma. He is also considered the father of martial arts. Bodhidharma’s worship is done like the God In many countries of the northeast.
Birthplace and childhood of Bodhidharma
There is no certified fact regarding the place of birth of Bodhidharma. Through the mythology of Buddhism, it revealed that Bodhidharma was born in the Indian subcontinent. The body texture and color of Bodhidharma also reflects the fact that he was born in India.
Bodhidharma was born in the Kanchipuram, southern part of India, in the dynasty of Ballava Maharaj, ruler of Pallava state. He was the youngest son of Maharaj. He did not feel good at being in the palace. Bodhidharman was always just thoughts the teachings of the Buddhist monks and the Sangha, that is why he adopted Buddhism instead of Rajagraha at the age of a child and became a Buddhist monk. He studied the teachings of Buddhism by keeping Buddha’s meditation path in the center. At the age of 22, he sent to propagate Buddhism in China. After a long journey through the Himalayas, Bodhidharma entered the Chinese border with one of his disciples. There he welcomed with great fervor.
Literal picture of Bodhidharma
In some stories of ancient Chan Buddhism, descriptions about Bodhidharma’s nature, form, color, and physical texture found in some places. In some books, images, sketches of Daruma have also found. The basis of all these evidence we can guess how he looks like. Through all these mediums it is known that he looked like a serious, sad and inauspicious, short Buddhist monk. Big eyes on the bearded face of his reveal his serious personality with clarity. A small incident is mentioned in The mythology of Zen Buddhism which tells his seriousness towards meditation. The incident goes like this-
Once upon a time, Daruma was meditating with his disciples on the Tai mountain. He did not know when he got to sleep. When his eyes opened, he got very angry on himself and at the same time, he uprooted all the hair from his eyelids. All the eyelid’s hair spread over the mountain. All the monks were watching the mountain with surprise in the morning because the eyelids of Bodhidharma had become plants. The monks say that those plants were grown on the Tai mountain, so this is the plant of Tai and they used to boil and drink the leaves of this plant, which help them in meditation. This is the plant which is famous as the tea. This incident shows how serious Bodhidharma was for Chan Buddhism.
Meeting and debate between Bodhidharma and King Wu.
King Wu was the great and noble follower of Buddhism. He used to do much work for the spread of Buddhism.
He had a great wish that a Buddhist monk from India came to him to spread the teachings of the Buddha in his kingdom. Inspire the people of China to follow the path shown by the Buddha. King Wu was very curious toward Buddhism knowledge. After much time had passed, the king’s wish was not fulfilled. After a long time, when the king came to know that two Buddhist monks arrived on the border of China. He went there to welcomed the monks. The king took both the Buddhist monks in a Buddhist monastery near his palace.
Questions of King Wu to Bodhidharma
The next day, the inquisitive king came to meet Bodhidharma with a list of questions raised in his mind. He expressed the desire to know the answers to some questions from the Buddhist monk. Bodhidharma allowed the king to ask questions. The King asked the first question to Bodhidharma “What is the source of this creation?” Listening to this question, Bodhidharma began to laugh and said to the king, “This is a fool’s question. Ask some more”
The king had a little anger from such behavior of the young monk. but he controlled the feeling of his anger. Then the king asked the second question. “What is the source of my existence?” This time Bodhidharma started to laugh very loudly. And then he said, “This is a far more foolish question. Ask some other question.” In a way, he had rejected the King’s questions. The anger of the King was rising inside because the king had made serious debates with religious scholars many times on these questions.
King Wu and Bodhidharma debate
But the king controlled his anger and kept himself cool with patience. This time, the king asked a more serious question to Bodhidharma, “I have done much social welfare works. I have built hundreds of training institutes to promote and spread Buddhism, will I get salvation?”
This question made Bodhidharma serious. He remained calm for some time and then for some time he kept looking in the eyes of the King and then he said to the king, “You salvation! you will go to the seventh hell and burn in the fire of hell” Bodhidharma was just want to say, meant that the work of philanthropy and social welfare done by any special wishes is never meaningful. The virtue done by greed eliminates virtue, and this type of virtuous men goes to hell. One should do the works of religion, charity, social welfare without any covetousness and selfishness, these counted among the best virtue effort. King had all done with the greed of emancipation. So Bodhidharma spoke of the King’s going to hell.
The thoughts of Bodhidharma was not understood by the king and the king considered Bodhidharma’s behavior to be insulted, so he drove Bodhidharman and his disciple out of there.
It is said that in order to prove his worth after the debate with King Wu, Bodhidharma meditate himself in a cave near the Shaolin temple for 9 years. After this, Bodhidharma started lived on the mountain. At the same time, he continued to work for Zen Buddhism with many of his disciples.
Bodhidharma as the father of martial arts.
Several fables related to Kungfu of Jain Buddhism in China show that Bodhidharma once had made the hole into the wall of the cave with the power of his meditation and the sharpness of his eyes.
One such incident described by the description that he had burned a rock with the power of his eyes. It can never be ascertained how much truth is in these mythological events. But one thing is true that Daruma became the part of Kungfu culture because of these mythological stories. we could get the knowledge through mythology that in 527A.D. Bodhidharma trained the Buddhist monks in Shaolin monastery and taught them new ways of kung-fu fighting. The art of this fight was encouraged and promoted by Taoism. This called modern martial arts of the modern age. Slowly, the new method of kungfu became popular in other countries too. In China and other neighboring countries, martial arts were made the important part of the training of soldiers. Most of the fighting styles of China are based on the teachings of Bodhidharma.
The working area of Bodhidharma
His whole life dedicated to the Buddhism. He was the great Buddhist monk who born in India and made China his own workplace. After a healthy debate with King Wu, he kept meditation at the center of his religion and promoted Buddhism or Chan Buddhism to preserve and propagate in China. He taught the Kung-fu to the Buddhist monks in the Shaolin temple. It is said that he lived with his disciples in the field of North V of China. His tenure considered to be the time of the New Song Dynasty or Liang Dynasty. The meditations, teachings, and teachings of Bodhidharma were related to the Lankavatar Sutras. Bodhidharma is the 28th Buddhism Guru or Principal Acharya.
Death of Bodhidharma
One day Bodhidharma found dead in Shaolin Temple, Zhengzhou, China in a mysterious way. It was the incident of 540A.D. It is said that one of his disciples had killed him by poisoning. Perhaps, he became the victim of the secret battle of succession among the disciples. These are all estimates. What was the reason for his death? How did he die? The answer to these questions is still a mystery.
In the end, I would like to say that it is the misfortune of India that, a great talent, the great Buddhist Saint Bodhidharma has not been given a little place anywhere in Indian history. But he is famous like God in many Northeast countries like China, Japan, Cambodia, Sri Lanka etc.