Home Page



Master Bodhidharma
(Daruma in Japanese)


Zen Transmission,
from Buddha to Hui Neng
Really famous ones
are in bold

Shakyamuni Buddha
Arya Mahakashyapa
Arya Ananda
Arya Sanakavasa
Arya Upagupta
Arya Dhrtaka
Arya Miccaka
Arya Vasumitra
Arya Buddhanandi
Arya Buddhamitra
Arya Parshva
Arya Punyayashas
Mahasattva Ashvaghosha
Arya Kapimala
Mahasattva Nagarjuna
Arya Kanadeva
Arya Rahulata
Arya Sanghanandi
Arya Gayashata
Arya Kumarata
Arya Jayata
Arya Vasubandhu
Arya Manorhita
Arya Haklena
Arya Aryasimha
Arya Basiasita
Arya Punyamitra
Arya Prajnatara
Arya Bodhidharma
Great Master Hui Ko
Great Master Seng Tsan
Great Master Tao Hsin
Great Master Hung Jen
Great Master Hui Neng


The list of people connecting the Buddha to Master Hui Neng is on the left below.  After Master Hui Neng, Zen diversified into different schools, so each modern school would have, mostly, different names from then onwards.


Here are some of the well known 'keepers of the lamp' up to Daruma (Bodhidharma):



The Buddha (around 500 BC)
Leader of the Buddhist teaching in this historical period (there were other Buddhas before, whose teachings have been lost).  He truly discovered the Truth without reliance on written teachings.



Maha Kasyapa
The Buddha's great follower, who was a considered a great monk, even before he met the Buddha.  Famous for modest living and happy adherence to the precepts, he was the only follower that understood the Buddha's "silent teaching", making him the fist Patriarch of Zen.



Entrance to Bodhidharma's
meditation cave

The Buddha's attendant.  He was instrumental in allowing women to become monks during the life of the Buddha.








Visitors pay homage at
the shrine in the cave

Bodhidharma brought Zen from India to China and lived in the Shaolin Temple that ironically became famous for Kung Fu hundreds of years later.  He was an Indian person so his facial features were quite dramatic, to the Chinese.  Accordingly, he is heavily stylized when depicted.


The statue above is a very standard depiction, while the round, red ball thing on the top right is a unique, Japanese version.  In Japan temples sell wooden versions in this style without eye pupils.  You take it home and paint one pupil in before starting a big task, such as studying for a test.  when the task is successfully completed, you paint the seconds pupil in and return him to the temple.


This is why you are sometimes greeted by hundreds of Daruma Dolls when entering the external shrine of a Japanese temple.  You will also see Daruma when Japanese win and election.  They usually paint the second pupil in at the press conference when they announce their victory.



Bodhidharma's years of meditation
in the cave are said to have
left his shadow on this rock,
removed from the cave and
 on display in the Shaolin Temple.

Daruma meets the King
When he arrived in China, Daruma had to meet the King.  The King was well known for spending on Buddhist temples, hospitals, schools and other public works.  He asked Daruma "What merit have I accumulated for all my works?"

Daruma replied "None."

"Ok then, what is the meaning of the Dharma (Buddhist teachings)?"

"Only emptiness, nothing sacred."

"Who stands before me?"

"I don't know."


This became a famous Zen dialogue with many interpretations.  One of the best is: Good works make karma Mental imprints created by the volitional thoughts and acts of a deluded mind for your wealth, but wisdom is needed if you to are escape Samsara Cycle of birth, death and rebirth to which all unenlightened beings are condemned.

In any case the king must have been a great guy, because almost any other king in history would have cut Daruma's head off for being cheeky.







Daruma crosses the YangTze River on a reedDaruma invigorates the Shaolin Temple
Next Daruma travelled north, eventually arriving at the Shaolin Temple.  A popular legend claims he crossed the Yangtze River on a reed to get there.  This is often depicted in images of him including the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) figurine on the left.

At Shaolin he spent nine years meditating while facing a wall.  He took no disciples until one monk cut off his arm to prove his sincerity in relieving his suffering.  This disciple was Master Hui Ko, who became Daruma's successor.

There's an interesting legend that 3 years after Daruma died he met a Chinese official in central Asia.  According to the legend, he told the official he was retuning to India and carrying a single shoe.  The resulting controversy caused the monks to open Daruma's grave where only a single shoe was found.  Whatever the actual facts are, this led to yet another popular depiction of Daruma as travelling with a single show in toe, as in the Qing Dynasty figure on the right.







Today, at Bodhidharma's Temple at the foot of the Mt Song, nuns tend the vegetable garden.
You have to think it couldn't have looked very different 1500 years ago.

you are in Zen News, now

  About the 'About Zen' site    Site Map