Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Bodhi Dharma- the forgotten chapter in Indian history


There has been much hype and hoopla surrounding the latest movie to hit the theatres this Diwali in Tamil- Yezhaam arivu. The multi crore budget movie has been marketed well and the expectations it has created has raised many eyebrows, including this movie buff. The story of Bodhi Dharma is by itself very intriguing- a Pallava Prince turned Buddhist monk of the sixth century. The Father of Chan ( zen) Buddhism and the man who named ‘tea’ from TAI…Fondly called Daruma in Japan and Da Mo – “ the blue eyed barbarian” in Chinese. When Chan spread from China to Japan, the myth of Bodhi Darma too sailed across to Japan. Today traditional Daruma dolls are an essential ficture in every Japanese home. Every monastery in China houses his statue. Bodhi Dharma is also said to have propagated the mix of yoga, silambattam, varmakalai and Indian martial arts and existing Chinese martial art forms to the Shaolin monks at the world renowned Shaolin Temple. He is father of Shaolin Arts- that reshaped into modern day’s kung- fu!
Oldest painting of Bodhi Dharma from 12th Century, Japan. Courtesy- onmarkproductions.com
Tanlin, the Chinese scholar of the sixth century mentions Bodhi Dharma in his book-
“The Dharma Master was a South Indian of the Western Region. He was the third son of a great Indian king of the Pallava Dynasty. 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.” This is the first ever mention we find of Bodhi Dharma in China.

Prof Tsutomu Kambe - Univ of Tokyo provided an answer to his birth – “Documents published just after Tang dynasty (ending in 907) describe that the name of the Kingdom of Bodhidharma’s origin as expressed with two Chinese characters ’香至. A likely pronunciation is Kang-zhi (Kanchi).” Various accounts say Bodhi Dharma was born the third prince of Pallava King, who followed Buddhism under the able guidance of his master Pragnyadhara. This is again a slight variation from Gautam Buddha, narrates Osho- “he was not averse to initiate women as sanyasins like Gautam Buddha- he himself was a disciple of Sanyasin Pragnyadhara”! It was Pragnyadhara who prodded him to move on to China. It was her unabated streamlining that made him shed all his material love . He followed his master’s orders to reach China- the land of Zhen Dan. He probably sailed to China- a proof to again show the Indian Kings had naval prowess and crossed to mainland China by crossing the Yangtze River. The interesting interpretation of his crossing the Yangtze by using a reed, not a boat, depicts the smooth sailing of Dharma over the turbulent waters of samsara!

Bodhi Dharma, crossing Yangtze on a reed- courtesy xabusiness.com

He practised a unique form of yoga- zazen in Japanese, his own style- the ‘wall gazing’. He is referred to as the ‘wall gazing monk’. That may be a method of finding the truth behind a wall- the mind...This was definitely not meditation.  Every monastery in China and Japan boast of a statue of Bodhi Dharma, but Indian history has no trace of him. He himself had to relinquish worldly interests including the Pallava throne to spread Buddhism which was almost extinct by then, with the re-emergence of Hinduism. His death and fag end of his life is also shrouded in mystery. Legend says he was poisoned and died. He was buried, but a Chinese official named Shung Yun who knew him, saw him alive after three days heading towards India, barefoot, with a sandal in his hands. When enquired, Bodhi Dharma answered he was returning to India once for all and moved on. Only when the Chinese official returned home did he know that Dharma had been dead for three days. His tomb was immediately dug out and all they could find was a single sandal. His corpse was missing…History talks volumes of Jesus’ resurrection, but there is no hint of Dharma’s death and awakening. He simply vanished in thin air.
Daruma eye painting- at the beginning of the year and the end.
Pic courtesy- onmarkductions.com
In Japanese folklore, Daruma is looked upon as a symbol of prosperity, Daruma dolls, drums and figurines are made even today. People buy these Daruma dolls- a Japanese egg shaped doll that tilts back upright when knocked over. Its wide-open eyes and lack of legs come from the Bodhi Dharma legends. People buy these dolls without eyes, paint an eye at the beginning of a year. By the end of the year, as a thanks giving, they paint the other eye! Daruma dolls are used as talismans to ward off evil spirits and as lucky mascots.
Prince Charles painting a Daruma doll's eye!
Pic Courtesy- carpages.co.uk



Here are few teachings of Bodhi Dharma-
"As long as you look for a Buddha somewhere else, you'll never see that your own mind is the Buddha."
"And as long as you're subject to birth and death, you'll never attain enlightenment."
"If we should be blessed by some great reward, such as fame or fortune, it's the fruit of a seed planted by us in the past."
"The ignorant mind, with its infinite afflictions, passions, and evils, is rooted in the three poisons. Greed, anger, and delusion."
"The mind is always present. You just don't see it."
A forgotten history has been now revived and it is indeed great to be a part of the nation to which Dharma belonged to!

63 comments:

  1. This is such an informative post...I did not know about Daruma Dolls or the Bodhi Dharma.

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    1. yes, really it is great movie i watched it and proud of bodhidarma

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  2. Very interesting. I should see this film. I did not know anything about this!

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    1. hi meera
      if ur talkin abt tamil movie "yel am arivu" .... well then dis movie doesnt show right abt our beloved master "bodhidarma"
      movie says bodhidarma was married wen he left india .... but bodhidarma wasn't married at all.movie shows bodhidarma went to china to cure that disease.no bodhidarma dint move to china for this reason.
      the movie doesn't give a right picture of bodhidarma.
      there were controversies abt this movie after its release as well.

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  3. @ Alka- thank you. Most of us don't know that kung fu and tea were gifts of an Indian to China! True!

    @ Meera- Yes, i too did not hear anything about him before i knew of the movie. But ample wealth of information is available on the net on him... Now really proud of him:)

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  4. hmm...I never have any information about Bodhi Dharma....

    Thanks alot...I will search for his teaching more on net now...

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  5. I cant wait to watch the movie. Let my exams get over. The posters wooed me enough to google about Bodhi Verma! :)
    But your post, removed all my confusions!

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  6. wonderful post

    surprised that a tamil movieis coming out of this story xlnt find for a movie
    waiting to see it

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  7. @ Thinking- thank you, do read more on his teachings:)

    @ Redhanded- Sure, do watch it, i've heard from friends who watched the movie that it is slow:P Beware! And best of luck for your exams:)

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  8. @ Harimohan- Thanks for the comment and visit. Yes, it is an excellent find, let us see how the movie fares:P Initial reviews say the movie is a bit slow!

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  9. Halo ya,
    If yu dnt mistake me .. can u make tat histry part of BODHI a bit interesting by makin it like a flow chart.. its diff for me to understand..

    how ever i will try readin it again and again until i understand ...( if i have nt reached theenlightment then)..hope u dont gr.... ur teeth in anger ,,,wit regds

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  10. 1.Informative read
    2.can u mke it wit font size14 and paragraf spacing 1.5 or 2?
    3.sanyasin Pragyandhara is a much renowned person or what??
    4.fag end of all relegion masters stay mystery.. donno why? (even budda died while havin food n a common man's house as it was poisoned.. add to crucification of JESUS...nabigal i donno..)
    5.eye painting- interesting...
    6.reg.his teachings.. idont find anything diff from other prophets ...where ever there was an vacuum.. these beliefs expanded naturally.. wit the tag of the profounder.. we (all) took the TAG v seriously..

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  11. Very interesting information. Would love to see this movie.
    Happy Diwali!
    Enjoy the holidays.

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  12. This is a great and informative post. Thanks for narrating it to us...

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  13. @ Anonymous- I think you ought to read it again for better understanding;) I have tried to give it in the easiest possible manner! As for spacing and font size, shall try to adhere to what you say. Pragnyadhara is heard of only in relation to Bodhi Dharma and nowhere else:( Most of the Prophets' death is shrouded by mystery- YES...that makes their lives more interesting for us to read and emulate! All Prophets teach the on the same lines- only we never happen to listen to...

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  14. @ Rama- Thank you so much, Happy Diwali to you too...

    @ Saru- thanks for the visit and comment:)

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  15. a.g naveen kumar28 October 2011 at 11:07

    Very. Great n proud of indian culture we hv to see more things abt bodhi dharma and many thing

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  16. Interesting post! A very intriguing movie! Eagerly awaiting its hindi remake now :D

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  17. Interesting informative post...thanks for sharing with us!

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  18. @ Naveen kumar- Thank you for the comment. Yes, let us keep our heads held high!

    @ Arti- thank you for the comment. Hindi version might not be that interesting as the original one;) See Ra One for example!

    @ Short poems- Glad you liked the post- thank you for the comment!

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  19. Hi i watched this film..It's very interesting and innovative..Nice try..It's a nice information to all indians..particularly tamilians...So guys watch this movie..

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  20. @ Poovin Kumar- Thank you, yes, we can be proud of him, now that we know about him!

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  21. Great article... immensely intriguing part of history. Would you mind giving me some other links regarding his life story?

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  22. @Sahida, thanks for the comment and here are a few links to learn more about Bodhi Dharma-

    http://www.selfdiscoveryportal.com/cmBodhidharma.htm

    http://www.usashaolintemple.org/chanbuddhism-history/

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  23. pls more movie in future about other great person who has beeen forgotten

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  24. @ Anonymous- yes, it would be better if we could harness much of our forgotten history!

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  25. Glad you also posted about Bodhidharma Sister.. Thanks for the light..

    Someone is Special

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  26. GOOD...AT LAST ONE INDIAN MADE CHINEESE TO LEARN-TO SURVIVE...TO LEAD TODAY TO THE TOP.....THAT'S THE INDIAN SPIRIT.....CHINA , THE WORST NATION IN THE WORLD......CHEATING THE WORLD WITH THE COPIES OF MANY INDIAN MIGHTIES.......PHILOSOPHIES..... AND MANY MORE....

    ----- VIJAY----\
    HYDERABAD.......
    9032929950

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  27. GOOD...AT LAST THE WORLD IDENTIFIED THAT CHINA NOW IS SURVIVING WITH THE SPIRIT OF AN INDIAN...THESE BLUDDY CHINEESE MIGHTB HAVE KILLED THE GREAT LORD BODHI DHARMA , FOR THE SAKE OF HIS GREAT KNOWLEDGE.....NOW THESE BASTARDS ARE TRYING CAPTURE THE WORLD ...THIS IS THE SELFISH NATURE OF CHINEESE....BEWARE OF CHINEES...

    -----VIJAY---
    HYDERABAD

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  28. we don't know about our great indian "BODHI DHARMA" even if we saw the movie there is no need to know about him we have to know about only what he teach.

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  29. Madura Ashok:

    Really we felt ashamed. . But we know the name now thru this movie thanks for entire team with super performance of actor and director. Bodhidharman is a Master of science. .he is the best example for indian people like helping hart in before 1600 years really good. . We are honourable to tell we born in Bodhidharman place and i tell loudly i am a TAMILZAN. Jai Hind. .

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  30. wonderful teasure of India.every Indian must proud of him Jai ho

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  31. We came to know about such a greatest person being worshipped as a god in china, japan and thailand. Like Gautama Buddha.
    But what was the thing felt bad, those great people born in India but mostly worshipped by other countries.

    Great thanks to A.R.Murugadoss,
    who brought such a great character to our mind via 7th sense film .

    Thanks again.

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  32. Great, thanks to A.R. Murugadoss who directed this 7th sense film.
    Also brought great character to our knowledge.

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  33. Aneesh Kumar
    We are loosed very important person. he is BODHIDHARMA

    It is said, as Bodhidharma was walking along a street, a parrot called out to him. The parrot could talk. It said:


    Mind Come from the West,
    Mind Come from the West,
    Please teach me the way
    To escape from this cage.


    Bodhidharma thought, 'I came here to save people and it's not working out; at least I can save this parrot.' And so he taught the parrot:


    To escape from the cage,
    To escape from the cage,
    Stick both legs straight out.
    Close both eyes tight.
    That's the way to escape your cage.



    The parrot heard and understood. It pretended to be dead. It lay on the bottom of its cage with its legs stuck out still and its eyes closed tight, not moving, not even breathing. The owner found the parrot this way and took it out to have a look. He held the bird in his hand, peering at it from the left and right until he was convinced it was indeed dead. The only thing about it was, it was still warm. But it wasn't breathing. And so the owner opened his hand and in that instant the parrot was fully revived. It flew away and escaped its cage.



    [“Bodhidharma coming from the West” became a much discussed Zen phrase; and came to be regarded ‘`the essence of Zen”.


    In another interpretation, the parrot was consciousness, cage the body and the teaching was to be free from bonds of the of physical limitations and go beyond the demands of the body.]

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  34. you have to give credit to muragadoss.. while the movie wasnt upto my expectations, the fact is he researched it brilliantly... the story of Bodhi darma should be a matter of pride for Indians..yet, as depicted in the movie, no Indian had a clue.

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  35. Finally watched the film two days back (months after it was released). Very disappointing to say the least. Clearly Murugadoss has not done his homework well. Instead he conveniently shifts the story to depict the Chinese in a bad light. And why talk so great about Bodhidharma when his portion is only talked baout for the first 20 minutes. The rest of the story was just chaotic.The film is clearly not worth the hype created for the film.

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  36. Thanks for the post friends... Now i am one among those who respect Bodhi Dharma.

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  37. Ha ha They they made a film where Bhodhi dharman doing comedy.I m tamizhian.But I really felt bad when history falsed with cheap cinema heroism.This film must be taken that it must showed how bodhi dharaman lived and created zen.But in this film the director fooled every tamilian with cheap cinema cliche.

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  38. the kalaripayattu(martial art of south india especially kerala) is the basic of all martial arts being taught all over the world... kung fu is only one part... the basic martial art has evolved from indiia... we r the true masters of the universe... but how many of us know that....how far we know our true self as bharathvarsh vaasi...? the once vast empire from iran to indonesia....

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  39. proud to be an indian!! really a good article!!.....cloud nine has brought out a gr8 truth abt INDIA!!.

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  40. nice to know this and feels great proud

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  41. sarva-shaktiman

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  42. Very. Great n proud of indian culture we hv to see more things abt bodhi dharma and many thing and thamil movie 7th sense is nice all youth see the movie follow indian culture

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  43. debanand i think why india not continue bodhi dharma kungfu
    & medicine tecnic i am very happy to know that like gautam
    buddha also bodhi dharma is a great god in our asian country.

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  44. I like the movies introduce great Indian peoples to us we need like this

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  45. Bodhi dharma life story is very exclent and very superbb

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  46. proud to b a indian and tamizhian.
    the movie was reallly great....

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  47. proud to be a tamilian 7am arivu bhodhidarman i want to live like that

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  48. its really amazing and belivable story.SO INDIA IS ALWAYS IN UPPER HAND THAN ANY OTHR COUNTRIES ETC......................

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  49. Bodhi dhatma life story is very intresting.i like movie.i proud to be an indian...

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  50. bodhidharma is great i proud of bodhidharma

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  51. Nice ρoѕt. I was checking constаntlу this blog and I'm impressed! Extremely helpful information particularly the last part :) I care for such info a lot. I was looking for this particular information for a long time. Thank you and best of luck.

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  52. Hi !my name is Sowgandhiga of VI 'B'. I am not proud to be a tamilan but i am proud that to be a indian ,from india not only bodhi dharaman so many great leaders are formed. This is our responsiblity to go by there and protect their names and fames. If somebody have any words to me just send e-mail at sowgandhiga2002@yahoo.com and we can be a good friends.

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  53. A very very fantastic and ravishing article about bodhidharma

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  54. it is very adorable and interesting story about honorable bodhidharam

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  55. it is only movie or beyound this is their any truth

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  56. nilesh chauhan13 July 2014 at 21:37

    I watched this movie this movie is soo good Indian culture has left this story

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  57. proud to be an indian where such a great legend was born

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  58. Bodhidharma is a revered & respected teacher for the chinese. If not they won't credit him as Master of Zen & Shaolin Kung Fu. I think more chinese know about Bodhidharm. Even chinese comics always mentioned him. For me, he is unselfish man. Although a lots of article say maybe he didn't exist and Zen is not attribute to him but for me I do believe he exist but because at that time when kung fu & zen is not that well known or practice at times, not much is written about him. Only when recently kung fu and Zen flourish then there began to look back for the founder.
    Actually I first know about Bodhidharma through kung fu movies and books on kung Fu. Only later did I found out he is a master of zen/Chan/dhyāna

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