The legend of Bodhidharma


Bodhidharma, the third son of a  Tamil  Pallava king  from  Kanchipuram,  who had awakened his  kundalini  and mastered the martial arts, went to China in sixth century and was supposed to be more than 150 years old.  Bodhidharma visited the  Emperor Wu  (Emperor Xiāo YÇŽn 蕭衍 (posthumous name WÇ”dì 武帝) of Liáng 梁 China), a fervent patron of Buddhism.

Here is one of the conversation that happened between him and the king:

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 emptiness.”
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  AvalokiteÅ›vara) 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.”

Four practices  are at the core of Bodhidharma’s teaching. These are:

  • The “practice of retribution of enmity”,
  • The “practice of acceptance of circumstances”,
  • The “practice of the absence of craving”,
  • The “practice of accordance with the Dharma”.

Short URL: