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CONFUSION: A 5th-century monk from Kashmir named Dharmatrata has been confused with Bodhidharma, with Dharmatrata's lineage becoming Bodhidharma's lineage -- the result? The lack of robust historical evidence concerning Bodhidharma, paradoxically, is offset by countless legends about this sage.

Bodhidharma himself is known in Tibet as Bodhidharmatrata. Legends come in two varieties -- the orthodox Chinese version, and the far more fanciful Japanese version.

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The historical Bodhidharma (known as Daruma in Japan) was an Indian sage who lived sometime in the fifth or sixth century AD.

Modern scholars and art historians are trying to discern the underlying historical figure by stripping away the ideological, idealizing, & idolizing accretions.

Bodhidharma achieved enlightenment (Japanese = satori さとり), becoming the 28th Indian Patriarch in that lineage (Nijūhasso 二十八祖), and then, in accordance with instructions from Prajñātāra, he traveled to China to transmit the Mahayana teachings.

After a perilous three-year sea voyage, he finally reaches Canton (China), whereupon he makes his way to the court of the Liang Dynasty in Nanking (Nanjing) and speaks with Emperor Wu (Liáng Wǔdì 梁武帝; Jp. The pious monarch, one of China’s most fervent patrons of Buddhism, is told that his building of temples, ordaining of monks, carving of Buddha statues, and copying of sutras has no karmic merit (see story here). To reach his destination, he must cross the mighty Yangtze River (artwork of this scene shows him crossing the river while balanced atop a tiny reed).

In Tibet/China/Japan, he is an avatar of Avalokitêśvara (J = Kannon). Photo Prints of Japan Wall-Gazing Daruma 面壁達磨Phallic Symbol. Among them was the Treatise on the Two Entrances and Four Practices, attributed to Bodhidharma (but recorded by his disciple Tanlin).

Last modified 19-Feb-2020 17:41