Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk who lived during the 5th/6th century and is traditionally credited as the leading patriarch and transmitter of Zen (Chinese: Chán, Sanskrit: Dhyāna) 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.

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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
  • There are two known extant accounts written by contemporaries of Bodhidharma.
 

Modern scholarship

Bodhidharma's origins. Though Dàoxuān wrote that Bodhidharma was a Tamilan from South India.

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Bodhidharma's name

Bodhidharma was said to be originally named Bodhitara. His surname was Chadili. His Dhyāna teacher, Prajnatara, is said to have renamed him Bodhidharma.

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Legends

According to Southeast Asian folklore, Bodhidharma travelled from south India by sea to Sumatra, Indonesia for the purpose...

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...

Nine years of wall-gazing

Failing to make a favorable impression in Southern China, Bodhidharma is said to have traveled to the northern Chinese kingdom...
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Buddhist Chants

Bodhidharma Quotes

If you use your mind to study reality, you won't understand either your mind or reality. If you study reality without using your mind, you'll understand both. 

 Bodhidharma

Later accounts

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Dàoxuān Dàoxuān adds more detail concerning Bodhidharma's origins

2

Epitaph for Fărú The idea of a patriarchal lineage in Chán dates back to the epitaph for Fărú

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Yǒngjiā Xuánjué Bodhidharma was the 28th Patriarch of Buddhism in a line of descent from Śākyamuni Buddha.