(Bodai daruma) d. 530 CE  The First Patriarch

Bodhidharma is the legendary Indian monk who is said to have brought Buddhism to China. There is little historical evidence of his life but there are several pieces of writing thought to have been written by him (e.g. the Bloodstream Sermon) and several others which were attributed to him although probably not his compositions.  In addition a Buddhist monk called Dao Xuan wrote about Bodhidharma in the seventh century CE in a compendium of biographies of eminent monks, describing him as a devoted Mahayana practitioner from India who taught Yogacara teachings.

Most of us will have seen the typical image of Bodhidharma as the ‘red-bearded barbarian’ and heard some of the stories associated with him, such as his supposed uninterrupted sitting for nine years in a cave after being refused admission to the Shaolin Temple, although other legends also have him associated with that place and linked to the practice of gongfu (kung fu).  Whatever his actual history, Bodhidharma remains a big part of the story of both of the existing schools of Zen in Japan, and the first official Zen ancestor. 

Further Reading

Bodhidharma in the Denkōroku (Record of the Transmission of the Lamp)
The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma – Red Pine

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