Encounter with Bodhi Dharma

On the way of Buddhist practice, by chance, I have encountered with Aikido as gZen in actionh. 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 Japan by Takeshi Ito, who is a traveler & writer about Indian as much as Asian cultures and martial arts.

He mentioned that Bodhi Dharma was born in South India, practiced martial arts seriously from young age as prince of rural dynasty. After grown up, he faced crossroad that has two ways of becoming great General and other. Then he selected the other way of becoming Buddhist monk.

Some decades passed with serious practice and wondering seeker, he suddenly decided to go China, over come such a adventure, then reached to Shaolin temple. He started intensive meditation practice, facing to the wall inside dark cave for 9 years without any interruption.

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 gMarrow washing classich

In Shaolin temple, there remains very old text books derived from direct discourse of Bodhi Dharma called gՋ،o Mascle Change Classich and go Marrow Washing Classich. With the texsts, Katas of martial exercises have been kept and practiced by monks of the temple. Another kata called g18 hands of Arahanh was also preserved there.

Both classics have a significant name. What do gMuscle Changeh and gMarrow Washh mean ?

In India, there was a rich tradition of wondering and searching for great masters who can lead disciple to the highest goal, both in the way of spirituality and martial arts. Bodhi Dharma must also follow such tradition, and supposed to had long journey for searching in India.

Around 5th century, South India was a great showcase of meditation. In many schools and sects like Mahayana Budhism, Therawada Budhism, Hindu Yoga, Jain, and some school of martial arts, they practiced intensive meditation with inter relations. Meditation was a common language and basement for every kind of spiritual searching.

If itfs OK, we can call Bodhi Dharma gmeditation maniach. 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 India. The mania never misses the chance to take the target, so he must search every kind of meditation technique across the borders and sects.

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 gKundalinihshakti 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 shouldnft 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 gwash marrowh? Provably gmarrow  washing classic g was a teaching of kundalini method.

On the other hand, what wasgmuscle change classich ?

In Sanskrit, there is a word gVyayamah. [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 T(Chan) was derived from word gT(Chan-na)h, and gChan-nah was derived from word gDhiyanah which means gmeditationh in Sanskrit. Sanskrit was major language of Mahayana schools, so itfs natural to consider him as a Mahayana monk.

But there was very similar word with Dhiyana. Itfs gJhanah 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 South India.

The famous commentary book in Therawada tradition called gVishdi Maggah was written by Bikhu Buddhagosa around Tth 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 South India, and life period of him was very parallel with that of Bodhi Dharma. The images of Buddhagosa and Bodhi Dharma completely over lap each other for me.

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 (Baddha) 30 years before arrival of Bodhi Dharma. According to the record, Baddha was a Therawada monk.

Itfs 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.


Home@© 2009 Sangam Institute of Indian Martial Arts. All rights reserved.  Next