Andy Ferguson’s new book, Tracking Bodhidharma: A Journey to the Heart of Chinese Culture, explores the elusive figure of Bodhidharma, revered as the First Ancestor of Chinese Zen. The book is part travelogue, part history, and part detective novel.
Who was Bodhidharma? Did he actually exist? Why are the accounts of his life so sketchy and conflicting? Andy Ferguson travels north through China, following Bodhidharma’s approximate route from his arrival in the south through the historic former capital of Nanjing and on to the famous Shaolin Temple. Along the way, he takes note of some amazing developments in Chinese Buddhism that remain largely unknown in the West. Centered on Bodhidharma’s pivotal interview with Emperor Wu of Liang (known to Zen students as Case 1 of the Blue Cliff Record) Ferguson’s account interprets this meeting in a fascinating new way, and notes the painful historical irony concerning its probable location.
Tracking Bodhidharma is newly published by Counterpoint. I spoke with Andy Ferguson about it on May 16th. Calligraphy by Hakuin Ekaku