The 8th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk who lived during the 5th/6th century CE. He is traditionally credited as the transmitter of Ch'an (Sanskrit: Dhyāna, Japanese: Zen) to China, and regarded as its first Chinese Patriarch.
Birthday celebrated the fifth day of the tenth lunar month.
Little contemporary biographical Information on Bodhidharma is extant, and subsequent accounts became layered with legend. The principle sources, given in various translations, vary on their account of Bodhidharma's origins.
Two popular traditions exist regarding Bodhidharma's origins. An Indian tradition regards Bodhidharma to be the third son of a Tamil Pallava king from Kanchipuram, while the Japanese tradition regards Bodhidharma to be from Persia.
The accounts also 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.
There are two known extant accounts written by contemporaries of Bodhidharma.
Yáng Xuànzhī (Yang Hsüan-chih) - The Record of the Buddhist Monasteries of Luoyang
A Dehua ware porcelain statuette of Bodhidharma, from the late Ming Dynasty, 17th century
The earliest text mentioned Bodhidharma is The Record of the Buddhist Monasteries of Luoyang (洛陽伽藍記 Luòyáng Qiélánjì) which is compiled in 547 by Yáng Xuànzhī (Yang-Hsuan-chih 楊衒之), a writer and translator of Mahāyāna Buddhist texts into the Chinese Language.
Yang gave the following account:
He traveled from the wild borderlands to China. Seeing the golden disks on the pole on top of Yǒngníng's Stupa) reflecting in the sun, the rays of Light illuminating the surface of the clouds, the jewel-bells on the Stupa blowing in the wind, the echoes reverberating beyond the heavens, he sang its praises.
He exclaimed: "Truly this is the work of Spirits." He said: "I am 150 years old, and I have passed through numerous countries. There is virtually no country I have not visited.
Even the distant Buddha-realms lack this."
He chanted homage and placed his palms together in salutation for days on end.
T'an-lín - preface to the Two Entrances and Four Acts
The second account was written by T'an-lín (曇林; 506–574). T'an-lín's brief biography of the "Dharma Master" is found in his preface to the Two Entrances and Four Acts, a text traditionally attributed to Bodhidharma, and the first text to identify Bodhidharma as South Indian:
- the Dharma Master was a South Indian of the Western Region. He was the third son of a great Indian king.
His ambition lay in the Mahayana Path, and so he put aside his white layman's robe for the black robe of a Monk [...] Lamenting the decline of the true teaching in the outlands, he subsequently crossed distant mountains and seas, traveling about propagating the teaching in Han and Wei.
T'an-lín's account was the first to mention that Bodhidharma attracted disciples, specifically mentioning Dàoyù (道育) and Huìkě (慧可), the latter of whom would later figure very prominently in the Bodhidharma literature.
Ching-chüeh - Chronicle of the Lankavatara Masters
- The Teacher of the Dharma, who came from South India in the Western Regions, the third son of a great Brahman king.
Dàoxuān (Tao-hsuan) - Further Biographies of Eminent Monks
It was created by Hakuin Ekaku (1685 to 1768)
In the 7th-century historical work Further Biographies of Eminent Monks (續高僧傳 Xù gāosēng zhuàn), Dàoxuān (道宣; 596-667) possibly drew on Tanlin's preface as a basic source, but made several significant additions:
Secondly, more detail is provided concerning Bodhidharma's journeys.
Furthermore, citing the shore of the Luo River as the place of Death might possibly suggest that Bodhidharma died in the mass executions at Heyin 河陰 in 528. Supporting this possibility is a report in the Taishō shinshū daizōkyō stating that a Buddhist monk was among the victims at Héyīn.
Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall
In the Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall (祖堂集 Zǔtángjí) of 952, the elements of the traditional Bodhidharma story are in place. Bodhidharma is said to have been a Disciple of Prajñātāra, thus establishing the latter as the 27th Patriarch in India.
Finally, as opposed to Daoxuan's figure of "over 150 years," the Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall states that Bodhidharma died at the age of 150. He was then buried on Mount Xiong'er (熊耳山 Xióngĕr Shān) to the west of Luoyang.
However, three years after the burial, in the Pamir Mountains, Sòngyún (宋雲)—an official of one of the later Wei kingdoms—encountered Bodhidharma, who claimed to be returning to India and was carrying a single sandal.
Insofar as, according to the Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall, Bodhidharma left the Liang court in 527 and relocated to Mount Song near Luoyang and the Shaolin Monastery, where he "faced a wall for nine years, not speaking for the entire Time", his date of Death can have been no earlier than 536.
Dàoyuán - Transmission of the Lamp
Subsequent to the Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall, the only dated addition to the biography of Bodhidharma is in the Jingde Records of the Transmission of the Lamp (景德傳燈錄 Jĭngdé chuándēng lù, published 1004 CE), by Dàoyuán (道原), in which it is stated that Bodhidharma's original Name had been Bodhitāra but was changed by his master Prajñātāra. The same account is given by the Japanese master Keizan's 13th century work of the same title.
Legends about Bodhidharma
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 Chán, visited the Emperor Wu (Emperor Xiāo Yǎn 蕭衍 (posthumous Name Wǔdì 武帝) of Liáng 梁 China), a fervent patron of Buddhism:
- Emperor Wu: "How much karmic Merit have I earned for ordaining Buddhist Monks, building Monasteries, having Sutras copied, and commissioning Buddha images?"
- Bodhidharma: "None. Good deeds done with worldly intent bring good Karma, but no Merit."
- Emperor Wu: "So what is the highest meaning of Noble Truth?"
- Bodhidharma: "There is no Noble Truth, there is only void."
- Emperor Wu: "Then, who is standing before me?"
- Bodhidharma: "I know not, Your Majesty."
After Bodhidharma left, the Emperor asked the official in charge of the Imperial Annals about the encounter. The Official of the Annals then asked the Emperor if he still denied knowing who Bodhidharma was. When the Emperor said he didn't know, the Official said, "This was the Great-being Guanyin (i.e., the Mahasattva Avalokiteśvara) transmitting the imprint of The Buddha's Heart-mind."
The Emperor regretted his having let Bodhidharma leave and was going to dispatch a messenger to go and beg Bodhidharma to return. The Official then said, "Your Highness, do not say to send out a messenger to go fetch him. The people of the entire nation could go, and he still would not return."
Nine years of wall-gazing
Failing to make a favorable impression in Southern China, Bodhidharma is said to have travelled to the northern Chinese kingdom of Wei to the Shaolin Monastery. After either being refused entry to the shaolin 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. 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"; or that he disappeared, leaving behind the Yi Jin Jing; or that his legs atrophied after nine years of sitting, which is why Japanese Bodhidharma dolls have no legs.
Huike cuts off his arm
In one legend, Bodhidharma refused to resume teaching until his would-be student, Dazu Huike, who had kept vigil for weeks in the deep snow outside of the Monastery, cut off his own left arm to demonstrate sincerity.
Skin, flesh, bone, marrow
- Bodhidharma asked, “Can each of you say something to demonstrate your understanding?”
- Dao Fu stepped forward and said, “It is not bound by words and phrases, nor is it separate from words and phrases. This is the function of the Tao.”
- Bodhidharma: “You have attained my skin.”
- The Nun Zong Chi stepped up and said, “It is like a glorious glimpse of the realm of Akshobhya Buddha. Seen once, it need not be seen again.”
- Bodhidharma; “You have attained my flesh.”
- Dao Yu said, “The four elements are all empty. The Five Skandhas are without actual existence. Not a single Dharma can be grasped." Bodhidharma: “You have attained my bones.”
- Finally, Huike came forth, bowed deeply in Silence and stood up straight.
- Bodhidharma said, “You have attained my marrow.”
Bodhidharma at Shaolin
Some Chinese accounts describe Bodhidharma as being disturbed by the poor physical shape of the Shaolin Monks, after which he instructed them in techniques to maintain their physical condition as well as teaching Meditation.
He is said to have taught a series of external exercises called the Eighteen Arhat Hands (Shi-ba Lohan Shou) and an internal practice called the Sinew Metamorphosis Classic. In addition, after his departure from the temple, two manuscripts by Bodhidharma were said to be discovered inside the temple: the Yijin Jing (易筋經 or "Muscle/Tendon Change Classic") and the Xi Sui Jing. Copies and translations of the Yi Jin Jing survive to the modern day. The Xi Sui Jing has been lost.
Travels of Bodhidharma
According to Southeast Asian folklore, Bodhidharma travelled from south India by sea to Sumatra, Indonesia for the purpose of spreading the Mahayana Doctrine. From Palembang, he went north into what are now Malaysia and Thailand.
Appearance after his Death
Don't mention that you saw me or you will meet with disaster".
- For nine years he had remained and nobody knew him;
- Carrying a shoe in hand he went home quietly, without ceremony.
Practice and teaching
Pointing directly to one's mind
One of the fundamental Chán texts attributed to Bodhidharma is a four-line stanza whose first two verses echo the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra's disdain for words and whose second two verses stress the importance of the Insight into reality achieved through "Self-realization":
- "A special Transmission outside the scriptures,
- Not founded upon words and letters;
- By pointing directly to [one's] mind
- It lets one see into [one's own true] nature and [thus] attain Buddhahood."
The stanza, in fact, is not Bodhidharma's, but rather dates to the year 1108.
Tanlin, in the preface to Two Entrances and Four Acts, and Daoxuan, in the Further Biographies of Eminent Monks, mention a practice of Bodhidharma's termed "wall-gazing" (壁觀 bìguān). Both Tanlin and Daoxuan associate this "wall-gazing" with "quieting [the] mind" (安心 ān xīn).
In the Two Entrances and Four Acts, traditionally attributed to Bodhidharma, the term "wall-gazing" is given as follows:
- Those who turn from Delusion back to reality, who meditate on walls, the absence of Self and other, the oneness of mortal and sage, and who remain unmoved even by scriptures are in complete and unspoken agreement with reason".
Exactly what sort of practice Bodhidharma's "wall-gazing" was remains uncertain. Nearly all accounts have treated it either as an undefined variety of Meditation, as Daoxuan and Dumoulin, or as a variety of seated Meditation akin to the zazen (坐禪; Chinese: zuòChán) that later became a defining characteristic of Chán. The latter interpretation is particularly common among those working from a Ch'an standpoint.
There are early texts which explicitly associate Bodhidharma with the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra. Daoxuan, for example, in a late recension of his biography of Bodhidharma's successor Huike, has the Sūtra as a basic and important element of the teachings passed down by Bodhidharma:
- In the beginning Dhyana Master Bodhidharma took the four-roll Laṅkā Sūtra, handed it over to Huike, and said: "When I examine the land of China, it is clear that there is only this Sutra. If you rely on it to practice, you will be able to cross over the World."
Another early text, the Record of the Masters and Disciples of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra (楞伽師資記 léngqié shīzī jì) of Jìngjué (淨覺; 683–750), also mentions Bodhidharma in relation to this text. Jingjue's account also makes explicit mention of "sitting Meditation", or zazen:
- For all those who sat in Meditation, Master Bodhi(dharma) also offered expositions of the main portions of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra, which are collected in a volume of twelve or thirteen pages, [...] bearing the title of Teaching of (Bodhi-]Dharma".
The Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra, one of the Mahāyāna Buddhist sūtras, is a highly "difficult and obscure" text whose basic thrust is to emphasize "the inner Enlightenment that does away with all duality and is raised above all distinctions". It is among the first and most important texts in the Yogācāra, or "Consciousness-Only", school of Mahāyāna Buddhism.
- If, Mahamati, you say that because of the reality of words the objects are, this talk lacks in sense. Words are not known in all The Buddha-lands; words, Mahamati, are an artificial creation. In some Buddha-lands ideas are indicated by looking steadily, in others by gestures, in still others by a frown, by the movement of the Eyes, by laughing, by yawning, or by the clearing of the throat, or by recollection, or by trembling.
In contrast to the ineffectiveness of words, the Sūtra instead stresses the importance of the "Self-realization" that is "attained by Noble Wisdom" and occurs "when one has an Insight into reality as it is": "The Truth is the state of Self-realization and is beyond categories of discrimination". The Sūtra goes on to outline the ultimate effects of an experience of Self-realization:
- [The Bodhisattva) will become thoroughly conversant with the Noble Truth of Self-realization, will become a perfect master of his own mind, will conduct himself without effort, will be like a gem reflecting a variety of colours, will be able to assume the Body of transformation, will be able to enter into the subtle minds of all beings, and, because of his firm belief in the Truth of mind-only, will, by gradually ascending the stages, become established in Buddhahood.
Construction of lineages
The idea of a patriarchal lineage in Ch'an dates back to the epitaph for Fărú (法如 638–689), a Disciple of the 5th Patriarch Hóngrĕn (弘忍 601–674). In the Two Entrances and Four Acts and the Continued Biographies of Eminent Monks, Daoyu and Huike are the only explicitly identified disciples of Bodhidharma. The epitaph gives a line of descent identifying Bodhidharma as the first Patriarch.
- These famous biographies were non-sectarian. The Ch'an biographical works, however, aimed to establish Ch'an as a legitimate school of Buddhism traceable to its Indian origins, and at the same Time championed a particular Form of Ch'an. Historical accuracy was of little concern to the compilers; old legends were repeated, new stories were invented and reiterated until they too became legends.
D.T. Suzuki contends that Ch'an's growth in popularity during the 7th and 8th centuries attracted Criticism that it had "no authorized records of its direct Transmission from the founder of Buddhism" and that Ch'an historians made Bodhidharma the 28th Patriarch of Buddhism in response to such attacks.
The earliest lineages described the lineage from Bodhidharma into the 5th to 7th generation of patriarchs. Various records of different authors are known, which give a variation of Transmission lines:
| The Continued Biographies
of Eminent Monks
Xù gāosēng zhuàn 續高僧傳
of Dàoxuān 道宣
| The Record of the Transmission
of the Dharma-Jewel
Chuán fǎbǎo jì 傳法寶記
of Dù Fěi 杜胐
| History of Masters and Disciples of the Laṅkāvatāra-Sūtra
Léngqié shīzī jì 楞伽師資紀記
of Jìngjué 淨覺
(ca. 683 – ca. 650)
| The Xiǎnzōngjì 显宗记|
of Shénhuì 神会
|2||Huìkě 慧可 (487? – 593)||Dàoyù 道育||Dàoyù 道育||Dàoyù 道育|
|Huìkě 慧可 (487? – 593)||Huìkě 慧可 (487? – 593)||Huìkě 慧可 (487? – 593)|
|3||Sēngcàn 僧璨 (d.606)||Sēngcàn 僧璨 (d.606)||Sēngcàn 僧璨 (d.606)||Sēngcàn 僧璨 (d.606)|
|4||Dàoxìn 道信 (580 – 651)||Dàoxìn 道信 (580 – 651)||Dàoxìn 道信 (580 – 651)||Dàoxìn 道信 (580 – 651)|
|5||Hóngrěn 弘忍 (601 – 674)||Hóngrěn 弘忍 (601 – 674)||Hóngrěn 弘忍 (601 – 674)||Hóngrěn 弘忍 (601 – 674)|
|6||-||Fǎrú 法如 (638–689)||Shénxiù 神秀 (606? – 706)||Huìnéng 慧能 (638–713)|
|Shénxiù 神秀 (606? – 706) 神秀 (606? – 706)||Xuánzé 玄賾|
|7||-||-||-||Xuánjué 玄覺 (665–713)|
Continuous lineage from Shakyamuni Buddha
Eventually these descriptions of the lineage evolved into a continuous lineage from Śākyamuni Buddha to Bodhidharma. The idea of a line of descent from Śākyamuni Buddha is the basis for the distinctive lineage tradition of the Chán school.
According to the Song of Enlightenment (證道歌 Zhèngdào gē) by Yǒngjiā Xuánjué (665-713), one of the chief disciples of Huìnéng, was Bodhidharma the 28th Patriarch of Buddhism in a line of descent from Śākyamuni Buddha via his Disciple Mahākāśyapa:
- Mahakashyapa was the first, leading the line of Transmission;
- Twenty-eight Fathers followed him in the West;
- The Lamp was then brought over the sea to this country;
- And Bodhidharma became the First Father here
- His mantle, as we all know, passed over six Fathers,
- And by them many minds came to see the Light.
|1||Mahākāśyapa||摩訶迦葉 / Móhējiāyè||Ma-Ha-Ca-Diếp||Makakashyo||마하가섭 / Mahagasŏp|
|2||Ānanda||阿難陀 / Ānántuó||A-Nan-Đà / A-Nan||Anan||아난다 / Ananda|
|3||Śānavāsa||商那和修 / Shāngnàhéxiū||Thương-Na-Hòa-Tu||Shonawashu||상나화수 / Sanahwasa|
|4||Upagupta||優婆掬多 / Yōupójúduō||Ưu-Ba-Cúc-Đa||Ubakikuta||우바국다 / Ubagupta|
|5||Dhrtaka||提多迦 / Dīduōjiā||Đề-Đa-Ca||Daitaka||제다가 / Chedaga|
|6||Miccaka||彌遮迦 / Mízhējiā||Di-Dá-Ca||Mishaka||미차가 / Michaga|
|7||Vasumitra||婆須密 / Póxūmì||Bà-Tu-Mật||Bashumitsu||바수밀다 / Pasumilta|
|8||Buddhanandi||浮陀難提 / Fútuónándī||Phật-Đà-Nan-Đề||Buddanandai||불타난제 / Pŭltananje|
|9||Buddhamitra||浮陀密多 / Fútuómìduō||Phục-Đà-Mật-Đa||Buddamitta||복태밀다 / Puktaemilda|
|10||Pārśva||婆栗濕婆 / Pólìshīpó||Bà-Lật-Thấp-Bà / Hiếp-Tôn-Giả||Barishiba||협존자 / Hyŏpjonje|
|11||Punyayaśas||富那夜奢 / Fùnàyèshē||Phú-Na-Dạ-Xa||Funayasha||부나야사 / Punayasa|
|12||Ānabodhi / Aśvaghoṣa||阿那菩提 / Ānàpútí||A-Na-Bồ-Đề / Mã-Minh||Anabotei||마명 / Mamyŏng|
|13||Kapimala||迦毘摩羅 / Jiāpímóluó||Ca-Tỳ-Ma-La||Kabimara||가비마라 / Kabimara|
|14||Nāgārjuna||龍樹 / Lóngshù||Long-Thọ||Ryusho||용수 / Yongsu|
|15||Kānadeva||迦那提婆 / Jiānàtípó||Ca-Na-Đề-Bà||Kanadaiba||가나제바 / Kanajeba|
|16||Rāhulata||羅睺羅多 / Luóhóuluóduō||La-Hầu-La-Đa||Ragorata||라후라다 / Rahurada|
|17||Sanghānandi||僧伽難提 / Sēngqiénántí||Tăng-Già-Nan-Đề||Sōgyanandai||승가난제 / Sŭngsananje|
|18||Sanghayaśas||僧伽舍多 / Sēngqiéshèduō||Tăng-Già-Da-Xá||Sogyayasha||가야사다 / Kayasada|
|19||Kumārata||鳩摩羅多 / Jiūmóluóduō||Cưu-Ma-La-Đa||Kumarada||구마라다 / Kumarada|
|20||Śayata||闍夜多 / Shéyèduō||Xà-Dạ-Đa||Jayana||사야다 / Sayada|
|21||Vasubandhu||世親 / Shìqīn||Bà-Tu-Bàn-Đầu||Bashyubanzu||바수반두 / Pasubandu|
|22||Manorhita||摩拏羅 / Mónáluó||Ma-Noa-La||Manura||마나라 / Manara|
|23||Haklenayaśas||鶴勒夜那夜者 / Hèlèyènàyèzhě||Hạc-Lặc-Na||Kakurokuyasha||학륵나 / Haklŭkna|
|24||Simhabodhi||師子菩提 / Shīzǐpútí||Sư-Tử-Bồ-Đề / Sư-Tử-Trí||Shishibodai||사자 / Saja|
|25||Vasiasita||婆舍斯多 / Póshèsīduō||Bà-Xá-Tư-Đa||Bashashita||바사사다 / Pasasada|
|26||Punyamitra||不如密多 / Bùrúmìduō||Bất-Như-Mật-Đa||Funamitta||불여밀다 / Punyŏmilta|
|27||Prajñātāra||般若多羅 / Bānruòduōluó||Bát-Nhã-Đa-La||Hannyatara||반야다라 / Panyadara|
|28||धर्म / Dharma||達磨 / Dámó||Đạt-Ma||だるま / Daruma||달마 / Dalma|
Biography as a hagiographic process
According to John McRae, Bodhidharma has been the subject of a hagiographic process which served the needs of the Chinese Ch'an movement. According to him it is not possible to write an accurate biography of Bodhidharma:
- "It is ultimately impossible to reconstruct any original or accurate biography of the man whose Life serves as the original trace of his hagiography - where "trace" is a term from Jacques Derrida meaning the beginningless beginning of a Phenomenon, the imagined but always intellectually unattainable origin. Hence any such attempt by modern biographers to reconstruct a definitive account of Bodhidharma's Life is both doomed to failure and potentially no different in intent from the hagiographical efforts of premodern writers"
McRae's standpoint accords with Yanagida's standpoint:
- "Yanagida ascribes great historical value to the witness of the Disciple T'an-lin, but at the same Time acknowledges the presence of "many puzzles in the biography of Bodhidharma". Given the present state of the sources, he considers it impossible to compile a reliable account of Bodhidharma's Life".
Several scholars have suggested that the composed image of Bodhidharma depended on the combination of supposed historical Information on various historical figures over several centuries. Bodhidharma as a historical person may even never have actually existed.
Origins and place of birth
- "In the description of the Lo-yang temple, Bodhidharma is called a Persian. Given the ambiguity of geographical references in writings of this period, such a statement should not be taken too seriously".
- "And when Tao-hsuan speaks of origins from South Indian Brahman stock, it is not clear whether he is referring to roots in nobility or to India in general as the land of the Brahmans"
These Chinese sources lend themselves to make inferences about Bodhidharma's origins. "The third son of a Brahman king" has been speculated to mean "the third son of a Pallavine king".Based on a specific pronunciation of the Chinese characters 香至 as Kang-zhi, "meaning fragrance extreme", Tsutomu Kambe identifies 香至 to be Kanchipuram, an old capital town in the state Tamil-Nadu. According to Tstuomu Kambe
- "Kanchi means 'a radiant jewel' or 'a luxury belt with jewels', and puram means a town or a state in the sense of earlier Times. Thus, it is understood that the '香至-Kingdom' corresponds to the old capital 'Kanchipuram'."
In the context of the Indian Caste system the mention of "Brahman king" acquires a nuance. Broughton notes that "king" implies that Bodhidharma was of a member of the Kshatriya Caste of warriors and rulers. Brahman is, in western contexts, easily understood as Brahmana or Brahmin, which means priest.
- Bodhidharma’s Name appears sometimes truncated as Bodhi, or more often as Dharma (Ta-mo). In the first case, it may be confused with another of his rivals, Bodhiruci.
Buswell dates Bodhidharma abode in China approximately at the early 5th century. Broughton dates Bodhidharma's presence in Luoyang to between 516 and 526, when the temple referred to—Yǒngníngsì (永寧寺), was at the height of its glory. Starting in 526, Yǒngníngsì suffered damage from a series of events, ultimately leading to its destruction in 534.
Traditionally Bodhidharma is being credited to be the founder of the martial arts at the Shaolin Temple. However, martial arts historians have shown this legend stems from a 17th century qigong manual known as the Yijin Jing.
The authenticity of the Yi Jin Jing has been discredited by some historians including Tang Hao, Xu Zhen and Matsuda Ryuchi. This argument is summarized by modern historian Lin Boyuan in his Zhongguo wushu shi:
- As for the "Yi Jin Jing" (Muscle Change Classic), a spurious text attributed to Bodhidharma and included in the legend of his transmitting martial arts at the temple, it was written in the Ming dynasty, in 1624, by the Daoist priest Zining of Mt. Tiantai, and falsely attributed to Bodhidharma.
They say that, after Bodhidharma faced the wall for nine years at Shaolin temple, he left behind an iron chest; when the Monks opened this chest they found the two Books "Xi Sui Jing" (Marrow Washing Classic) and "Yi Jin Jing" within.
The first book was taken by his Disciple Huike, and disappeared; as for the second, "the Monks selfishly coveted it, practicing the skills therein, falling into heterodox ways, and losing the correct purpose of cultivating the Real.
The Shaolin Monks have made some Fame for themselves through their fighting skill; this is all due to having obtained this manuscript." Based on this, Bodhidharma was claimed to be the ancestor of Shaolin martial arts.
This manuscript is full of errors, absurdities and fantastic claims; it cannot be taken as a legitimate source.
- One of the most recently invented and familiar of the Shaolin historical narratives is a story that claims that the Indian Monk Bodhidharma, the supposed founder of Chinese Chan (Zen) Buddhism, introduced boxing into the Monastery as a Form of exercise around a.d. 525.
This story first appeared in a popular novel, The Travels of Lao T’san, published as a series in a literary magazine in 1907. This story was quickly picked up by others and spread rapidly through publication in a popular contemporary boxing manual, Secrets of Shaolin Boxing Methods, and the first Chinese physical culture history published in 1919.
That this story is clearly a twentieth-century invention is confirmed by writings going back at least 250 years earlier, which mention both Bodhidharma and martial arts but make no connection between the two.
Works attributed to Bodhidharma
- Two Entrances and Four Practices, 《二入四行論》
- The Bloodstream sermon 《血脈論》
- Dharma Teaching of Pacifying the Mind 《安心法門》
- [[Treatise on Realizing the Nature\\ 《悟性論》
- Bodhidharma Treatise 《達摩論》
- Refuting Signs Treatise 《破相論》(a.k.a. Contemplation of Mind Treatise《觀心論》)
- Two Types of Entrance 《二種入》