Revered as the father of Zen Buddhism, some scholars have still denied or raised doubts as to whether Bodhidharma actually existed.
He did. In fact, new evidence from Chinese scholarship suggests that he was a critically important historical figure, one far more fascinating than previously imagined. But if this is true, why doesn’t he appear in any official imperial records that were created while he lived?
The earliest and most reliable account we have concerning Bodhidharma’s life, written by the great monk-historian Dao Xuan around the year 650 AD, clearly suggests that Bodhidharma did not like emperors and made a point to avoid them. The famous story of Bodhidharma meeting and rejecting the “Bodhisattva Emperor Wu” of the Liang Dynasty is only the most famous bit of information that supports this thesis.
This fall, Tricycle will be traveling to the source itself, China, in a special pilgrimage led by Ferguson and abbot of the Village Zendo Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara. Want to come with us? Click here for more information.
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Andy Ferguson is a writer and businessman who lives with his family in Petaluma, CA. His book, "Zen's Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Techniques," is scheduled for release by Wisdom Books this spring. He is also the creator and publisher of the "Map of Zen Ancestors." A free version of the publication is downloadable from his website, www.zenancestors.com