McRae, John R.(2003) Seeing through the zen, California. University of California Press.
Damo Zushi (達摩祖師), Bodhidharma, an Indio monk came to China in Liang dynasty. Before he became a Buddhist monk, he was a prince in an Indian kingdom. It is said that he had met Liang Wu Di (梁武帝, 464-549) but they had no rapport with each other. Then Bodhidharma crossed the Yellow River and headed north to Shaolin temple (少林寺), Henan province (河南). This journey left us a legend that he crossed the river on one reed. Bodhidharma meditated in a cave about nine years until a Chinese monk Hui-ke (慧可, 487-593) came to visit him. Hui-ke asked Bodhidharma to be his master but Bodhidharma refused. It is said that in order to exam Hui-ke’s determination, Bodhidharma did not accept Hui-ke as his disciple at first until he cut one of his arms. Bodhidharma imparted the core teaching of Buddhist dharma, xin fa (心法), to Hui-ke and gave him some material as pledge, such as scripture, monk’s robe and bowl. After Bodhidharma was dead, it was said that he was not dead but returned to India for good. Someone even claimed meeting him on the Pamirs and he held just one shoe in his hand. Above are the popular stories of Bodhidharma.
The pattern of Bodhidharma’s life story became an important element in Chinese cultural after Zen Buddhism was popular. As a result, Bodhidharma is not only the first patriarch of Chinese Zen Buddhism but also the founder of Buddhist martial art, Shao-lin gong fu (少林功夫) . He even becomes an inventor of palmistry. Chinese and other Asian artists regard him as an important subject matter. The process which he accepted Hui-ke as disciple even transformed into a Confucian scholar’s life story in Song dynasty. His big eyes, heavy eyebrows, beard, and wearing light rob, handing a stick are constructed as a Daoist xian-ren (仙人). His image even became tumbler doll’s image in Japan and is regarded as a mascot. Bodhidharm’s imgage is vivid in Aisa.
Though Bodhidharm is very popular in Asia, there are few temples dedicated to Bodhidharm in Taiwan’s popular religion. In most of the Buddhist temple, there is few Bodhidharm’s image for worshiping. His name is written on a memorial tablet with the other Zen Buddhism patriarchs as a worshiping object.
Keywords: Bodhidharm, Zen Buddhism, patriarch of Zen
1. McRae, John R.(2003) Seeing through the zen, California. University of California Press.