Encounter with Bodhi Dharma
On the way of Buddhist practice, by chance, I have encountered with Aikido as “Zen in action”. My Aikido master liked to draw picture of Bodhi Dharma as a symbol of Samurai spirit. But I wondered, because Bodhi Dharma is a great Zen founder in China, but may not has any relations with martial arts according to my preconceived idea at that time.
After few years, very first book about
Kalarippayattu was published in
He mentioned that Bodhi Dharma
was born in
Some decades passed with serious
practice and wondering seeker, he suddenly decided to go
At last he got supreme Enlightenment, and became the founder of Zen school. He taught meditation technique to his disciples but nobody could follow his way because of its toughness. Then he started to teach martial arts together with meditation.
Since then, both Zen and martial arts became distinguished traditions of the Shaolin temple, gave great influences upon all Asian culture and martial arts.
By reading this story, my question was solved clearly, and I got understand that Bodhi Dharma was an ideal person who can carry on the image of Samurai spirits.
But why martial arts with meditation ?
They say that just for health and strength both mentally and physically.
But is it so simple ?
The mystery of “Marrow washing classic”
In Shaolin temple, there remains very old text books derived from direct discourse of Bodhi Dharma called “易筋経 Mascle Change Classic” and “洗髄経 Marrow Washing Classic”. With the texsts, Katas of martial exercises have been kept and practiced by monks of the temple. Another kata called “18 hands of Arahan” was also preserved there.
Both classics have a significant
name. What do “Muscle Change” and “
Around 5th century,
If it’s OK, we can call Bodhi Dharma “meditation maniac”. After settled down in Shaorin temple, he got incredible 9 years meditation retreat. His nature was really extreme and extraordinary.
If so, he must had same nature
during the life in
At that time, the area of south India include Tamil and Kerala nowadays was nourished by heroic mood of Sangam age. There were many schools of martial arts with concept of “Kundalini”shakti within deep meditation. The concept of Kundalini still remains in the context of Kalarippayattu and Yoga nowadays. But Sangam age had been closely faced to real battle fields, so the theory of kundalini was much more practical and severe than now. Each schools were always competing each other, and ready for going to the front.
And we shouldn’t forget that Bodhi Dharma was a expert of fighting too.
According to the text of Yoga, kundalini shakti is sleeping at the point near by coccyx, and once awaken, it will run up by side of marrow, then reach to the highest Chakra called Sahasrara at the top of the head, and make whole body-mind system tuned up.
If Bodhi Dharma explained such process as “wash marrow”? Provably “marrow washing classic “ was a teaching of kundalini method.
On the other hand, what was“muscle change classic” ?
In Sanskrit, there is a word “Vyayama”. [Vi] means every direction, and [Aayaama] means strech., so vyayama means the exercise of stretching with action, like Hatha Yoga, Meypayattu of Kalaripayattu., and/or Mallakhamb.
I think that Muscle Change Classic was a teaching of Vyayama method.
Kundalini and Vyayama method both together helped to tune up the whole body-mind system, and could establish the sufficient foundation for deep meditation.
Bodhi Dharma, as a hybrid meditater.
Ordinary, he is noted as a Mahayana monk, and they explain that the word 禅(Chan) was derived from word “禅那(Chan-na)”, and “Chan-na” was derived from word “Dhiyana” which means “meditation” in Sanskrit. Sanskrit was major language of Mahayana schools, so it’s natural to consider him as a Mahayana monk.
But there was very similar word
with Dhiyana. It’s “Jhana” means [specific state of mind in deep meditation]
in Pali which is major language of Therawada Sect. And Therawada was very
active at that time in
The famous commentary book in
Therawada tradition called “Vishdi Magga” was written by Bikhu Buddhagosa
around ５th century in Sri Lanka, which is
still in use by Therawada monastery these days. The book is complete guide
for monastic life with very detailed explanation of meditation technique. His
birth place was
I guess that Bodhi Dharma must have deep experiences of Therawada practice. Let me say that possibly he had a strong identity of Therawada tradition too.
The Shaolin temple was founded by 跋陀(Baddha) 30 years before arrival of Bodhi Dharma. According to the record, Baddha was a Therawada monk.
It’s really natural that Bodhi Dharma must had strong connection with Baddha before visiting there. Because of that, he went there, and settled there, then became a successor after Baddha.
My theory is that Bodhi Dharma was a high potential hybrid meditater born of the multi-experience through Mahayana and Therawada schools, Yoga tradition, then professional martial arts practices.