Bodhidharma statue at Shaolin.
Boddhidarma is the first patriarch of the chan sect known
also as zen.
He is also the 28 patriarch in the tradition of the Buddha
Boddhidharma was his indian name. Chinese know him as Da Mo or Ta
Mo. In Japan they name him Bodai Daruma or Daruma. He founded the
chan sect melting buddhism and taoism.
This happened between 527 and 536 (Christian era) in Shaolin
Monastery. Other datations locate this at around 470 AC.
From these years he left us 2 books in a manuscript collection
called " Yi Ging Ching. " or " Muscle/Tendon Changing Classic. "
and " Shii Soei Ching. " or " Bone Marrow Washing Classic.
These books describe in detail the practices of what today is
known as chi kung or qi qong.
Boddhidarma was also the creator of what we know today as tai chi
chuan, integrating the kalaprayat indian martial art and the
chinese exercises of the five animals with some tantric
approaches. (Some attribute tai chi chuan to Chang San Feng, as
he was the creator of the tai chi chuan form.)
It was him who refined the meditation technique that we explain
in Yin, yang and tai chi chuan : Open focus.
" Bodhidharma was born fifteen centuries ago as a son of a king
in the south of India. In the Kingdom of Pallavas.
He was the third son of his father, but seeing everything -- he
was a man of tremendous intelligence -- he renounced the
He was not against the world, but he was not ready to waste his
time in mundane affairs, in trivia. His whole concern was to know
his self-nature, because without knowing it you have to accept
death as the end.
All true seekers in fact, have been fighting against death.
Bodhidharma renounced the kingdom saying to his father, "If you
cannot save me from death, then please don't prevent me.
Let me go in search of something that is beyond death.".
The father thought for a moment and he said, "I will not prevent
you, because I cannot prevent your death. You go on your search
with all my blessings. It is sad for me but that is my problem;
it is my attachment. I was hoping for you to be the successor, to
be the emperor of the great Pallavas empire, but you have chosen
something higher than that. I am your father so how can I prevent
you? .And you have put in such a simple way a question which I
had never expected. You say, `If you can prevent my death then I
will not leave the palace, but if you cannot prevent my death,
then please don't prevent me either.".
You can see Bodhidharma's caliber as a great intelligence.
He was a follower of Gautama Buddha, in some instances he shows
higher flights than Gautama Buddha himself.
For example, Gautama Buddha was afraid to initiate a woman into
his commune of sannyasins but Bodhidharma got initiated by a
woman who was enlightened.
Her name was Pragyatara.
Boddhidharma was the 28 patriarch in the tradition of Gautama
He is known in Japan as Bodai Daruma or only Daruma.
It was Pragyatara who ordered Bodhidharma to go to China,
responding to an invitation made by Chinese Emperor Liang Wu Di
that requested the Indian Sangha to send an enlightened one to
China to teach.
Buddhism had reached China six hundred years before
It was something magical; it had never happened anywhere, at any
time -- Buddha's message immediately caught hold of the whole
The situation was that China had lived under the influence of
Confucius and was tired of it.
Because Confucius is just a moraliser, a puritan, he does not
know anything about the inner mysteries of life.
In fact, he denies that there is anything inner.
Everything is outer; refine it, polish it, culture it, make it as
beautiful as possible.
There were people like Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Lieh Tzu,
contemporaries of Confucius, but they were mystics not
They could not create a counter movement against Confucius in the
hearts of the Chinese people.
So there was a vacuum.
Nobody can live without a soul, and once you start thinking that
there is no soul, your life starts losing all meaning.
The soul is your very integrating concept; without it you are cut
away from existence and eternal life.
Just like a branch cut off from a tree is bound to die -- it has
lost the source of nourishment -- the very idea that there is no
soul inside you, no consciousness, cuts you away from
One starts shrinking, one starts feeling suffocated.
But Confucius was a very great rationalist.
These mystics, Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Lieh Tzu, knew that what
Confucius was doing was wrong, but they were not masters.
They remained in their monasteries with their few
When Buddhism reached China, it immediately entered to the very
soul of the people... as if they had been thirsty for centuries,
and Buddhism had come as a rain cloud.
It quenched their thirst so immensely that something unimaginable
Christianity has converted many people, but that conversion is
not worth calling religious.
It converts the poor, the hungry, the beggars, the orphans, not
by any spiritual impact on them but just by giving them food,
clothes, shelter, education.
But these have nothing to do with spirituality.
Mohammedanism has converted a tremendous amount of people, but at
sword point: either you be a Mohammedan, or you cannot
The choice is yours.
The conversion that happened in China is the only religious
conversion in the whole history of mankind.
Buddhism simply explained itself, and the beauty of the message
was understood by the people.
They were thirsty for it, they were waiting for something like
The whole country, which was the biggest country in the world,
turned to Buddhism.
When Bodhidharma reached there six hundred years later, there
were already thousands of Buddhist temples, monasteries, and two
million Buddhist monks in China.
And two million Buddhist monks is not a small number; it was five
percent of the whole population of China.
Pragyatara, Bodhidharma's master, told him to go to China because
the people who had reached there before him had made a great
impact, although none of them were enlightened.
They were great scholars, very disciplined people, very loving
and peaceful and compassionate, but none of them were
And now China needed another Gautama Buddha.
The ground was ready. Bodhidharma was the first enlightened man
to reach China.
The point I want to make clear is that while Gautama Buddha was
afraid to initiate women into his commune, Bodhidharma was
courageous enough to be initiated by a woman on the path of
There were other enlightened people, but he chose a woman for a
And the purpose was to show that a woman can be
Not only that, her disciples can be enlightened.
Bodhidharma's name stands out amongst all the Buddhist
enlightened people second only to Gautama Buddha.
21 September 527 AC, Bodhidharma's junk moored in Canton Harbour
(Guanzhou). From there he traveled to Nanjing were the Imperial
Court was staying.
On October 1st.he arrived and the Chinese emperor Wu came to
His fame had reached ahead of him.
Emperor Wu had done great service to the philosophy of Gautama
Thousands of scholars were translating Buddhist scriptures from
Pali into Chinese and the emperor was the patron of all that
great work of translation.
He had made thousands of temples and monasteries, and he was
feeding thousands of monks.
He had put his whole treasure at the service of Gautama Buddha,
and naturally the Buddhist monks who had reached before
Bodhidharma had been telling him that he was earning great
virtue, that he will be born as a god in heaven.
Naturally, his first question to Bodhidharma was, "I have made so
many monasteries, I am feeding thousands of scholars, I have
opened a whole university for the studies of Gautama Buddha, I
have put my whole empire and its treasures in the service of
Gautama Buddha. What is going to be my reward?".
He was a little embarrassed seeing Bodhidharma, not thinking that
the man would be like this.
He looked very ferocious.
He had very big eyes, but he had a very soft heart -- just a
lotus flower in his heart.
But his face was almost as dangerous as you can conceive.
Just the sunglasses were missing; otherwise he was a mafia
With great fear, Emperor Wu asked the question, and Bodhidharma
said, "Nothing, no reward. On the contrary, be ready to fall into
the seventh hell. Your actions have no merit. Pure consciousness
alone is merit.".
The emperor said, "But I have not done anything wrong -- why the
seventh hell? I have been doing everything that the Buddhist
monks have been telling me.".
Bodhidharma said, "Unless you start hearing your own voice,
nobody can help you, Buddhist or non-Buddhist. And you have not
yet heard your inner voice. If you had heard it, you would not
have asked such a stupid question. "On the path of Gautama Buddha
there is no reward because the very desire for reward comes from
a greedy mind.
The whole teaching of Gautama Buddha is desirelessness and if you
are doing all these so-called virtuous acts, making temples and
monasteries and feeding thousands of monks, with a desire in your
mind, you are preparing your way towards hell.
If you are doing these things out of joy, to share your joy with
the whole empire, and there is not even a slight desire anywhere
for any reward, the very act is a reward unto itself.
Otherwise you have missed the whole point.".
Emperor Wu said, "My mind is so full of thoughts. I have been
trying to create some peace of mind, but I have failed and
because of these thoughts and their noise, I cannot hear what you
are calling the inner voice.
I don't know anything about it." Bodhidharma said, "Then, at four
o'clock in the morning, come alone without any bodyguards to the
temple in the mountains where I am going to stay.
And I will put your mind at peace, forever.".
The emperor thought this man really outlandish, outrageous.
He had met many monks; they were so polite, but this one did not
care that he is the emperor of a great country.
And to go to him in the darkness of early morning at four
And this man seems to be dangerous -- he always used to carry a
big crozier with him.
The emperor could not sleep the whole night, "To go or not to go?
Because that man can do anything. He seems to be absolutely
unreliable." And on the other hand, he felt deep down in his
heart the sincerity of the man, that he is not a hypocrite.
He does not care a bit that you are an emperor and he is just a
He behaves as an emperor, and in front of him you are just a
And the way he has said, "I will put your mind at peace forever."
"Strange, because I have been asking," the emperor thought, "of
many many wise people who have come from India, and they all gave
me methods, techniques, which I have been practicing, but nothing
is happening -- and this strange fellow, who looks almost mad, or
drunk, and has a strange face with such big eyes that he creates
But he seems to be sincere too -- he is a wild phenomenon.
And it is worth to risk.
What can he do -- at the most he can kill me.".
Finally, he could not resist the temptation because the man had
promised, "I will put your mind at peace forever.".
Emperor Wu reached the temple at four o'clock, early in the
morning in darkness, alone, and Bodhidharma was standing there
with his crozier, just on the steps, and he said, "I knew you
would be coming, although the whole night you debated whether to
go or not to go.
What kind of an emperor are you -- so cowardly, being afraid of a
poor monk, a poor beggar who has nothing in the world except this
And with this crozier I am going to put your mind to
The emperor thought, "My God, who has ever heard that with a
crozier you can put somebody's mind to silence! You can finish
him, hit him hard on the head -- then the whole man is silent,
not the mind. But now it is too late to go back.".
And Bodhidharma said, "Sit down here in the courtyard of the
temple." There was not a single man around. "Close your eyes, I
am sitting in front of you with my crozier. Your work is to catch
hold of the mind. Just close your eyes and go inside looking for
it -- where it is. The moment you catch hold of it, just tell me,
`Here it is. And my crozier will do the remaining thing." It was
the strangest experience any seeker of truth or peace or silence
could have ever had -- but now there was no other way.
Emperor Wu sat there with closed eyes, knowing perfectly well
that Bodhidharma seems to mean everything he says.
He looked all around -- there was no mind.
That crozier did its work.
For the first time he was in such a situation.
The choice... if you find the mind, one never knows what this man
is going to do with his crozier.
And in that silent mountainous place, in the presence of
Bodhidharma, who has a charisma of his own....
There have been many enlightened people, but Bodhidharma stands
aloof, alone, like an Everest.
His every act is unique and original.
His every gesture has his own signature; it is not
He tried hard to look for the mind, and for the first time he
could not find the mind.
It is a small strategy. Mind exists only because you never look
for it; it exists only because you are never aware of it.
When you are looking for it you are aware of it, and awareness
surely kills it completely.
Hours passed and the sun was rising in the silent mountains with
a cool breeze.
Bodhidharma could see on the face of Emperor Wu such peace, such
silence, such stillness as if he was a statue.
He shook him and asked him, "It has been a long time. Have you
found the mind?" Emperor Wu said, "Without using your crozier,
you have pacified my mind completely.
I don't have any mind and I have heard the inner voice about
which you talked.
Now I know whatever you said was right. You have transformed me
without doing anything. Now I know that each act has to be a
reward unto itself; otherwise, don't do it.
Who is there to give you the reward? This is a childish idea. Who
is there to give you the punishment? Your action is punishment
and your action is your reward. You are the master of your
destiny." Bodhidharma said, "You are a rare disciple. I love you,
I respect you, not as an emperor but as a man who has the courage
just in a single sitting to bring so much awareness, so much
light, that all darkness of the mind disappears.".
Wu tried to persuade him to come to the palace.
He said, "That is not my place; you can see I am wild, I do
things I myself don't know beforehand. I live moment to moment
spontaneously, I am very unpredictable. I may create unnecessary
trouble for you, your court, your people; I am not meant for
palaces, just let me live in my wildness.".
17 October 527 AC, Boddhidharma took sail in the Yang Tzé
river towards North, To the Song mountain, were it was and is
currently located Shao Lin Monastery. At his arrival Boddhidharma
was appalled on the fat monks that failed to comply with buddhist
rule of vagancy that teaches detachment.
This rule was, and is, change your bed place every 3 days for a
period of at least 3 months.
Bodhidharma enquired the monks about their laxitude. They
defended themselves arguing that as monks, they were unarmed and
easy pray to bandits. So they decided to stay always in the
security of the Monastery. He decided then to teach them the
Kalaprayat techniques for martial arts and contracted some
chinese martial arts experts to teach also to the monks.
The chinese fighting styles of the 5 animals, were then merged
with the kalaprayat aryan style of martial arts.
And what we call today tai chi chuan was born.
Bodhidharma also teached medicine to the monks and organised for
some chinese doctors come to teach in Shaolin.
In 3 years the monks become so skilled in martial arts and
medicine that they start to be feared and respected by bandits.
The detachment rule was reinstated and respected.
But despite this activity, he was meditating almost all the time,
and sometimes in the night he would start falling asleep.
So, just not to fall asleep, just to teach a lesson to his eyes,
he took out all his eyebrow hairs and threw them in the temple
The story is that out of those eyebrows, the tea bushes
Those were the first tea bushes.
That's why when you drink tea, you cannot sleep.
And in Buddhism it became a routine that for meditation, tea is
So the whole Buddhist world drinks tea as part of meditation,
because it keeps you alert and awake.
Although there were two million Buddhist monks in China,
Bodhidharma could find only four worthy to be accepted as his
He was really very choosy.
It took him almost nine years to find his first disciple, Hui
For nine years -- and that is a historical fact, because there
are ancient most references, almost contemporary to Bodhidharma
which all mention that fact although others may not be mentioned
-- for nine years, after sending Wu back to the palace, he sat
before the temple wall, facing the wall.
He made it a great meditation.
He would just simply go on looking at the wall.
Now, looking at the wall for a long time, you cannot think.
Slowly, slowly, just like the wall, your mind screen also becomes
And there was a second reason.
He declared, "Unless somebody who deserves to be my disciple
comes, I will not look at the audience." People used to come and
they would sit behind him. It was a strange situation.
Nobody had spoken in this way; he would speak to the wall.
People would be sitting behind him but he would not face the
audience, because he said, "The audience hurts me more, because
it is just like a wall.
Nobody understands, and to look at human beings in such an
ignorant state hurts deeply.
But to look at the wall, there is no question; a wall, after all
is a wall. It cannot hear, so there is no need to be hurt. I will
turn to face the audience only if somebody proves by his action
that he is ready to be my disciple." Nine years passed.
People could not find what to do -- what action would satisfy
They could not figure it out.
Then came this young man, Hui Ke. He cut off one of his hands
with the sword, and threw the hand before Bodhidharma and said,
"This is the beginning.
Either you turn, or my head will be falling before you.
I am going to cut my head too.".
Bodhidharma turned and said, "You are really a man worthy of me.
No need to cut the head, we have to use it." This man, Hui Ke,
was his first disciple.
Finally when he left China, or intended to leave China, he called
his four disciples -- three more he had gathered after Hui Ke. He
asked them, "In simple words, in small sentences, telegraphic,
tell me the essence of my teachings. I intend to leave tomorrow
morning to go back to the Himalayas, and I want to choose from
you four, one as my successor." The first man said, "Your
teaching is of going beyond mind, of being absolutely silent, and
then everything starts happening of its own accord." Bodhidharma
said, "You are not wrong, but you don't satisfy me. You just have
my skin." The second one said, "To know that I am not, and only
existence is, is your fundamental teaching." Bodhidharma said, "A
little better, but not up to my standard. You have my bones; sit
down." And the third one said, "Nothing can be said about it. No
word is capable of saying anything about it." Bodhidharma said,
"Good, but you have said already something about it. You have
contradicted yourself. Just sit down; you have my marrow." And
the fourth was his first disciple, Hui Ke, who simply fell at
Bodhidharma's feet, without saying a word, tears rolling down
from his eyes. Bodhidharma said, "You have said it. You are going
to be my successor.".
But in the night Bodhidharma was poisoned by some disciple as a
revenge, because he had not been chosen as the successor.
So they buried him, and the strangest legend is that after three
years he was found by a government official, walking out of China
towards the Himalayas with his crozier in his hand and one of his
sandals hanging from the crozier -- and he was barefoot.
The official had known him, had been to him many times, had
fallen in love with the man, although he was a little
He asked, "What is the meaning of this crozier, and one sandal
hanging from it?" Bodhidharma said, "Soon you will know. If you
meet my people just tell them that I'm going into the Himalayas
forever." The official reached immediately, as fast as he could,
the monastery on the mountain where Bodhidharma had been
And there he heard that he had been poisoned and he had died...
and there was the tomb.
The official had not heard about it, because he was posted on the
boundary lines of the empire.
He said, "My God, but I have seen him, and I cannot be deceived
because I have seen him many times before.
He was the same man, those same ferocious eyes, the same fiery
and wild outlook, and on top of it, he was carrying on his
crozier one sandal."
The disciples could not contain their curiosity, and they opened
the tomb. All that they could find there was only one sandal. And
then the official understood why he had said, "You will find out
the meaning of it; soon you will know."
We have heard so much about Jesus' resurrection.
But nobody has talked much of the resurrection of
Perhaps he was only in a coma when they buried him, and then he
came to his senses, slipped out of the tomb, left one sandal
there and put another sandal on his crozier, and according to the
plan, he left.
He wanted to die in the eternal snows of the Himalayas.
He wanted that there should be no tomb, no temple, no statue of
He did not want to leave any footprints behind him to be
worshiped; those who love him should enter into their own being I
am not going to be worshiped. And he disappeared almost in thin
Nobody heard anything about him -- what happened, where he
He must be buried in the eternal snows of the Himalayas
If you feel you want to enter into your own being, and you want
to learn about open focus meditation :
read about Open Focus, a meditation technique in the tradition of
How can I start? Today. Now.
Just go to the following link and start the practices that we
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