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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Failing to make a favorable impression in Southern China, Bodhidharma is said to have traveled to the northern Chinese kingdom of Wei to the Shaolin Monastery. 

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After either being refused entry to the temple or being ejected after a short time, he lived in a nearby cave, where he "faced a wall for nine years, not speaking for the entire time".

The biographical tradition is littered with apocryphal tales about Bodhidharma's life and circumstances. In one version of the story, he is said to have fallen asleep seven years into his nine years of wall-gazing. Becoming angry with himself, he cut off his eyelids to prevent it from happening again.[55] According to the legend, as his eyelids hit the floor the first tea plants sprang up; and thereafter tea would provide a stimulant to help keep students of Chán awake during meditation.

The most popular account relates that Bodhidharma was admitted into the Shaolin temple after nine years in the cave and taught there for some time. However, other versions report that he "passed away, seated upright";[28] or that he disappeared, leaving behind the Yi Jin Jing; or that his legs atrophied after nine years of sitting,[58] which is why Japanese Bodhidharma dolls have no legs.

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

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

3

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