Who is Bodhidharma?

Much has been uttered about the semi-legendary Shao-lin Monastery in China. However little or no research has been done to clarify the many stories surrounding the history of this place, thought by many to be the birthplace of the traditional oriental martial arts. Closely related with the story of the Shao-lin Monastery is the name Bodhidharma, also referred to as Ta-mo, Damo, Daruma. Bodhidharma, revered by Buddhists as the 28th direct spiritual descendant of the Lord Buddha and First Patriarch of Chinese Zen. Bodhidharma was born near Kanchipuram in the Pallava Kingdom in South India.

Pragyatara, Bodhidharma’s master, told him to go to China because the people who had reached there before him had made a great impact, although none of them were enlightened. They were great scholars, much disciplined people, very loving and peaceful and compassionate, but none of them were enlightened. And now China needed another Gautama Buddha. The ground was ready.


Bodhidharma was the first enlightened man to reach China. The point I want to make clear is that while Gautama Buddha was afraid to initiate women into his commune, Bodhidharma was courageous enough to be initiated by a woman on the path of Gautama Buddha. There were other enlightened people, but he chose a woman for a certain purpose. And the purpose was to show that a woman can be enlightened. Not only that, her disciples can be enlightened. Bodhidharma’s name stands out amongst all the Buddhist enlightened people second only to Gautama Buddha.

Being an adept in Kalaripayattu (fighting art) which was popular in Pallava Kingdom, Bodhidharma taught the martial arts to Shaolin monks. He is credited with inventing Kung-Fu and associated martial arts in East Asia. Bodhidharma put up the essence of Mahayana Buddhism as a four-fold practice that encompass all other practices. They are: accepting adversity, adapting to conditions, seeking nothing, and acting in accordance with the Dharma.

The first Patriarch Bodhidharma arrived in Canton from T’ien-Chu (India), and stayed at the Harilakit Grove. At that time, Emperor Wu was a faithful adherent of Buddhism. The Emperor sent emissaries to receive the monk at Chin-ling (Nanking). They had a meeting, but no impression was made on the Emperor. The monk crossed the Yang-tze to the north and stayed at the Shao-lin Monastery at Sung-shan.

There are many legends about the man; they all have some significance. The first legend is: When he reached China – it took him three years – the Chinese emperor Wu came to receive him. His fame had reached ahead of him. Emperor Wu had done great service to the philosophy of Gautama Buddha. Thousands of scholars were translating Buddhist scriptures from Pali into Chinese and the emperor was the patron of all that great work of translation. He had made thousands of temples and monasteries, and he was feeding thousands of monks. He had put his whole treasure at the service of Gautama Buddha, and naturally the Buddhist monks who had reached before Bodhidharma had been telling him that he was earning great virtue, that he will be born as a god in heaven.

The dialogue between Emperor Wu and Bodhidharma is recorded in the book, Fu-tsu li tai t’ung tsai, it reads:

When Bodhidharma was presented to the Emperor by the magistrate of Canton, Hsiao Ang, the Emperor said, “I cannot enumerate the number of monks that I have supported, since I ascended the throne, in erecting monasteries and transcribing the sutras. I wonder what merit is gained by all this.”

Bodhidharma answered “There is no merit at all.” The Emperor asked, “What achievement is considered without merit?”

Bodhidharma answered, “All these are insignificant doings that would not free the doer from being reborn into this earth again. These deeds still show traces of worldliness; they are like the shadows following objects.

“Although they appear actually existing, they are no more than mere nonentities.”

The Emperor asked, “What then can be considered true merit?”

Bodhidharma answered, “A deed of true merit is full of pure wisdom and is perfect and mysterious, and its real nature is beyond the grasp of human intelligence. Such as this is not to be sought after by any worldly achievement.”

The Emperor asked, “What is the principle of the sacred truth?”

Bodhidharma answered, “Emptiness, and not sacred.”

The Emperor asked, “Then who is it that stands before me?”

Bodhidharma answered, “I do not know.”

The Emperor could not understand the deep meaning of all this. Bodhidharma remained for a few days and then he crossed the Yangtze River and proceeded north to the Shao-lin Monastery to remain there gazing at the walls.

What the Emperor did not understand was that Bodhidharma was advocating Cha’an (Zen) Buddhism, which centers its teaching “directly pointing to the human mind” and “becoming a Buddha just as you are,” believing that the Buddha nature is inherent in all human beings and that through meditative introspection this nature can readily be seen. By the Buddha-nature is meant the Buddha-mind in its highest attributes and true essence, which transcends all distinctions of object and subject or duality of any kind. It is emptiness, that is, empty of any specific character. The world of appearances, with all its specific characters, is but a product of the imagination.

To penetrate the Buddha-mind, the great masters of meditation variously advocated “absence of thought” in the sense that the mind should be freed from the influence of the external world. They taught “ignoring one’s feelings” so as to eliminate all defilement’s and attachments.

From its distaste for book-learning, Cha’an (Zen) Buddhism became known as the doctrine “Not founded on words or scriptures.” It was rather a teaching “transmitted from mind to mind,” that is, from one master directly to his disciple without the intervention of rational argumentation or formulation in conceptual terms. In essence, Cha’an (Zen) Buddhism is highly individualistic and often irreverent and iconoclastic with respect to tradition.



Smart practice essential for Samadhi

Should you hold communion with Supreme, devoid of mental fancies and modifications, then the great bondage of the mind will cease, all doubts will vanish and all Karmas will perish…

Bhidyate hridayagranthih chhidyante sarvasamsayah
kshiyante chasya karmani tasmin drishte paravare”

The stupid bee, knowing that flowers are blossoming in a certain tree and setting out with a terrific speed, passes it; and, in turning back, reaches it when the juice is finished. Another stupid bee, setting out with a low speed reaches it when the juice is finished. A clever bee, on the other hand, setting out with just the necessary speed, easily reaches the bunch of flowers, takes the juice to its heart’s content and, turning it into honey, enjoys its taste.

Similarly, among the students of surgery who are practicing surgical work on a lotus-leaf placed in a vessel of water, one stupid student, letting fall the knife with speed, either cuts the lotus-leaf into two or sinks it in the water. Another stupid one, out of fear of cutting or sinking, dare not touch it with the knife. The clever one, on the other hand, makes the stroke with the knife with uniform force, finishes his course and earns money by doing similar work when occasion arises.

To take another instance: on an announcement from the King, “He who brings a cobweb four fathoms long gets 4,000 coins,” a stupid man draws the cobweb in haste and cuts it here and there. Another stupid man, through fear of cutting it, dare not even touch it with his fingers. The clever man, on the other hand, rolls it from one end on a stick with mild force, brings it and gets the reward.

To take a fourth instance, a stupid sailor, who goes full sail when the wind is strong, causes the boat to rush off her course. Another stupid man, who lowers the sails when the wind is low, makes the boat remain in the same place. The clever one, on the other hand, goes full sail when the wind is low and half sail when the wind is strong and reaches his destination in safety.

Again, when the teacher announces to his pupils, “He who fills the tube without spilling the oil gets the reward,” a stupid student, greedy of gain, filling with haste, spills the oil. Another stupid one, through fear of spilling oil, dare not attempt the task. A clever one, on the other hand, fills the tube with calm and steady force and gets the reward.

Even so, when the sign appears, an aspirant makes strong efforts, saying: “I will quickly attain Samadhi”; but, his mind, through excessive strain, becomes distracted and he is not able to attain ecstasy or Samadhi. Another person, seeing fault in excessive strenuousness, gives up the effort, saying: “What is the use of Samadhi to me now? ” His mind, through over-slackness of energy, becomes idle and he too is not able to attain Samadhi. But, he who releases with an intelligent, calm, uniform force the mind that is slack ever so little from slackness and the distracted mind from distraction drives it towards the goal or Lakshya (i.e., Supreme) and attains Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Become like such a one.

Be silent. Know thyself. Know That. Melt the mind in That. Truth is quite pure and simple.


Mind – Its Mysteries and Control by Sri Swami Sivananda

The Secret of Ramayana!

“Manojaya eva mahajayah – Conquest of mind is the greatest victory.”
“Man jita, jag jita – If you conquer mind, you have conquered the world.” [Proverb]

In philosophy, you will always find an esoteric and an exoteric meaning. This is the reason why you need the help of a teacher. It is extremely difficult to comprehend the esoteric, inner meaning. You will find in Hatha Yogic books: “There is a young, virgin widow seated at the junction of the river Ganga and the river Yamuna.” What will you make out of this? It is difficult to understand. The young widow is the Sushumna Nadi (Nerve). The Ganga is Pingala Nadi. The Yamuna is Ida Nadi.

The Secret of Ramayana

There is also a secret of Ramayana. The secret of Ramayana is control of mind. Killing the ten-headed monster Ravana of Lanka means the annihilation of the ten evil though waves of the mind such as Lust, Anger, etc. Sita is the mind. Rama is Pure-Soul. Bringing Sita back from Lanka is concentrating the mind on Rama (Soul) by withdrawing it from objects and uniting it with Rama. Sita (mind) unites with Rama (Soul), her husband in Ayodhya (Sahasrara Chakra). Mind merges in Soul. This is, briefly, the esoteric meaning of Ramayana. This is the Adhyatmic exposition of Ramayana.

Who Can Control the Mind ?

The mind can be controlled by untiring perseverance and patience equal to that of one engaged in emptying the ocean, drop by drop, with the tip of a blade of grass.

A bird laid its eggs on the seashore. The waves came in and washed away the eggs. The bird became very angry. It wanted to empty the ocean with its beak. It applied all its energy in emptying the ocean. The king of the birds pitied its condition and came to its help. Narada, the peace-making Sage, also came and gave some advice to the bird. When the king of the ocean saw all these, he was very much terrified. He brought back all the eggs of the bird and handed them over to the bird with apology and prostrations. Aspirants, who are attempting to control the mind, should have the same asinine patience and untiring perseverance as that of the bird which attempted to empty the ocean with its small beak.

You must have the knack or the pluck or the aptitude to tame the mind. To tame a lion or a tiger is far more easy than taming one’s own mind. Tame your own mind first. Then you can take the minds of others quite easily.


Mind – Its Mysteries and Control by Sri Swami Sivananda

Whose bag is bigger?

A man was very much burdened by his suffering. He used to pray every day to God, ‘Why me? Everybody seems to be so happy, why am only I in such suffering?’ One day, out of great desperation, he prayed to God, ‘You can give me anybody else’s suffering and I am ready to accept it. But take mine, I cannot bear it any more.’

That night he had a beautiful dream, beautiful and very revealing. He had a dream that night that God appeared in the sky and he said to everybody, ‘Bring all your sufferings into the temple.’ Everybody was tired of his suffering – in fact everybody has prayed some time or other, ‘I am ready to accept anybody else’s suffering, but take mine away; this is too much, it is unbearable.’

So everybody gathered his own sufferings into bags, and they reached the temple, and they were looking very happy; the day has come, their prayer has been heard. And this man also rushed to the temple.

And then God said, ‘Put your bags by the walls.’ All the bags were put by the walls, and then God declared: ‘Now you can choose. Anybody can take any bag.’

And the most surprising thing was this: that this man who had been praying always, rushed towards his bag before anybody else could choose it! But he was in for a surprise, because everybody rushed to his own bag, and everybody was happy to choose it again. What was the matter? For the first time, everybody had seen others’ miseries, others’ sufferings – their bags were as big, or even bigger!

In the morning he prayed to God and he said, ‘Thank you for the dream; I will never ask again. Whatsoever you have given me is good for me, must be good for me; that’s why you have given it to me.’