Bodhidharma was the 28th successor of the Buddha in the Ch’an tradition.
He traveled from India to China in the sixth century. When he arrived he saw that the people he encountered had a very shallow understanding of Buddhism.
When he came to understand Chinese philosophy, he developed the teachings that we now call Ch’an (and Zen). He taught two primary methods of Awakening.
He taught students that there was really no line separating them from the Buddha. The only difference is that the Buddha understood he was Enlightened and the rest of us don’t realize that yet. If we are motivated in the quest to understand our true nature, then we will attain Enlightenment too.
Meditation is a powerful tool for delivering us to Awakening. Bodhidharma called his main teaching wall-gazing. It is simply silent meditation while facing a wall. In this, no thought is given to goals or the path. There is only us and the wall. In this teaching Bodhidharma doesn’t really show us anything, he just instructs us to seek the truth ourselves. We just sit there and stare at a wall until we realize that we don’t need to be shown anything. The truth is within us.
Bodhidharma suggested four methods for walking the path. They are:
1) The practice of repaying wrongs.
2) The practice of adjusting to circumstance.
3) The practice of non-seeking or asking for anything.
4) The practice of upholding the Dharma.
These are the main ideas of Bodhidharma’s teaching.
Bodhidharma suggested wall gazing, but he never said we had to do it all the time. We are also supposed to get on with our lives. When we understand many of our problems come from our own minds, we can get out of our own way. When we control our minds, we control our lives. This is my understanding of the central teachings of Bodhidharma.
– Daniel Scharpenburg