Our Grandfather, Bodhidharma
Who is Bodhidharma?
Bodhi, was the tree under which the first Buddha found his enlightenment.
Dharma, are the Buddhist spiritual writings, quotes of the Buddhas...
So, who was Bodhidharma?
Who is Bodhidharma?
When my disciples are accepted into Shaolin Chi Mantis, they also receive a Buddhist or "Dharma Name." Without knowing what their previous name was -- it is as if they were born that day.
I've not yet been able to find out what Bodhidharma's born name was, so his life has only been known since his trip to China and only by his Buddhist name.
This was very typical of Indian Buddhists. Many of the original Buddha's followers, the first generation of Buddhists, gave up their lives for Buddhism, anxious to leave behind their past lives, their businesses, and their families. Don't misunderstand this. Buddha never required this as some religions do. From many of the biographies and stories I've read, many of these first Disciples of Buddha were anxious to give up their past lives. After 20 years or 30 years or 40 years of being a slave to a job, dealing with family problems, being victimized by politics, or struggling to survive and support ungrateful relatives...Buddhism became a nomadic vacation in search of something more noble and spiritually fulfilling.
Buddhism requires 3 basic dedications:
- Dedicate yourself to applying The Buddha's teachings to your life.
- Discover how to live and interact successfully utilizing the Buddha's teachings.
- Share this wisdom with others.
With all these Disciples struggling to improve themselves, struggling to be happy and striving to be content (living successfully), and striving hard to help others be happy, helping others discover contentment, and helping people to be successful in all their endeavors... Buddhism spreads like daisies in a meadow.
So back to who was Bodhidharma: we know him from his Buddhist life only. His Buddhist life inspired him to go enlighten the Emperor of China. This was a very long walk. There were bandits back then. There were starving families who accosted travellers for their survival. There were warlords who did what ever they felt like. There were lots of wild animals. There were tigers, and humans were quite tasty -- once the tiger realized not to eat their clothing -- probably easier to take a human shirt off than eat the hair of a wild animal...
And there were few places to stop for food and water. As a Buddhist Monk, Bodhidharma ate, slept, and lived by the generosity of the strangers he met. Also not a very easy accomplishment
Yet, Bodhidharma decided to walk to see the Emperor of China. From all the stories I've read, not one story has referred to him having a travelling companion. He walked alone.
Bodhidharma was definitely a lone wolf. He travelled alone, he faced the Emperor alone, and when he retired at the Shaolin Buddhist Temple, he lived alone for seven years in a cave on the nearby hill.
However, Bodhidharma appears to have never given up on humanity, even if he shunned them. During the seven years he spent "meditating." I think this word, meditating, may be incorrect. Somehow, during these seven years of "staring at wall," Bodhidharma wrote several books, and invented Kung Fu. Doesn't sound like idle sitting to me. When I look up the word, meditate, in the dictionary it states: "Think carefully or deeply about something."
This fundamental concept of meditation has been lost in the last centuries as misguided religions have changed this into, "Think of nothing." How a religion could go from one concept to its' complete opposite is a weird human nature. Look what the Christians did to Christ's teachings: they developed an Inquisition to torture and kill anyone that wouldn't swear allegiance to evil. Hardly what Christ intended.
And the new Buddhism is hardly what Buddha intended. Even in the 6th Century AD, when Bodhidharma arrived at the Shaolin Temple, he criticized the monks for being lazy and unworthy of even being his disciples.
Buddha Zhen Meditates to the Wall
"Utah was Buddha Zhen's cave. Full time Kung Fu for a decade. By teaching day and night, dragging his kids to all his classes, and rehabilitating many teenagers, Buddha Zhen wrote his Tai Chi books, Kung Fu manuals, practiced his Chinese weapons daily and became known from Governor to Mayor as, "that Kung Fu Monk.""
Yep, that was me. A decade of complete devotion to Buddhism, Tai Chi, and Shaolin Kung Fu. Most all Kung Fu Masters support themselves with a regular day job. Dr. Kam Yuen was a chiropractor, Grandmaster Wong Jack Man is an engineer, Shifu Stamps was computer programmer, Shifu G.D. French a draftsman, and me, Buddha Zhen, I supported myself by being a Mr. Mom. Unlike my contemporaries and masters, I could still practice and pursue my Buddhism and Kung Fu while doing my day job. In fact, my kids and wife became my guinea pigs as I applied my teachings and dragged them around to all my classes and lectures.
This full-time dedication to Zen Buddhism and Shaolin Kung Fu enabled me to accomplish thousands of tasks and attain enlightenments that would require most people 200 years to achieve in their limited part-time dedication to Zen and Kung Fu. I am blessed.
Shaolin Chi Mantis Follows Path of Bodhidharma
In the creation of the manuals and handbooks of Shaolin Chi Mantis, I selected appropriate Buddhist lessons that somehow correlated or could be symbolic of the physical moves being taught in the Kung Fu class. The basics of my Tai Chi program are to teach people to control their breathing and their movements. In my Kung Fu program I strive to teach people to control their minds and their movements. That's why I don't like teaching any just Tai Chi or just Shaolin Kung Fu.
In order to balance the body + mind + spirit, I need to balance their body + mind + breathing.
Just as Christians believe the Holy Bible is as important as going to church, Buddhists have always known that the words were more important than the place you here them. The original Buddhists were trained to visit people and share their wisdom from home to home, just like Christ did a couple hundred years later. Buddha and his Disciples would travel from home to home, village to village, and city to city. The sermons were held anywhere comfortable. Buddha travelled and gave sermons for many years more than Christ did. Most fortuantely of all, Buddha's words were appreciated and written down by scholars and students. These became "The Dharma" of Buddhism. Perhaps this would translate to "gospel" but I've yet to pursue this since Christianity has a monopoly on the word, gospel, just as Buddhism seems to have coined the word, "dharma."
Any group of Buddhists gathering together could be a Sangha, or Buddhist church. A coffee shop, living room, classroom. I tend to think of a Sangha as being a recurring event, but it could just happen once.
Bodhidharma seems to have even quit teaching when he retired at the Buddhist Monastery. The monks of Shaolin probably shunned him as much as modern priests would shun me if I tried to make them attend my Kung Fu classes. There were evidently a few monks who pursued Bodhidharma to be their spiritual guide and master, but he turned them all away. Probably due to the lack of commitment he'd experienced in previous disciples. Finally, a monk was persistent. Bodhidharma said something like, "I'll teach you and take you on as my disciple when the snow turns red." This was probably his way of saying, "when pigs fly."
Rightly or wrongly, this aspiring Disciple cut his left arm off at the entrance to Bodhidharma's cave. The snow was definitely red, and Bodhidharma took him as his Disciple.
I also usually discourage those who seek me as their spiritual or Kung Fu Master. I've discouraged students from shaving their heads. The most persistent and dedicated students still seem to emerge from my discouragement. Then, I am anxious to teach them everything I know. In recent years I have tried to be more lenient and let students into Shaolin Chi Mantis instead of training them in Tai Chi Youth first. This was selfish of me. I enjoy teaching Kung Fu and without higher level students, I don't get the opportunity to teach many lessons that are exciting, challenging, and beneficial to me also.
Still no matter how many students I invite in my life, their are very few that can be trained. The cats are studious for one entire year. The cranes a little longer. Snakes find sanctuary in the flexiblity of spiritual concepts. The rabbits will stay until it's not fun any more. Only the horses, dogs, and dragons can probably attain the Shaolin Chi Mantis ADVANCED GONGFU LEVEL. The horses are the hardworking laborers of life who accept physical demands as normal. The dogs are loyal and accept whatever you give them. The dragons will pursue power, but they may desire shortcuts. Which leaves the rat and pig, who can excel at Kung Fu if they can get past their religion or create their religion within their Kung Fu.
No matter who they are, or how good they are at learning, I really enjoy teaching everyone. The changes I make in an unhealthy person are clearly evident, but the changes of an intelligent and physically fit person are also significant, even if less noticeable. It is this vicarious satisfaction of helping others that has always fueled my teaching and kept me from pursuing more profitable activities. No matter how much someone pays me per hour, my fondest memories and feelings of accomplishment come from the people I have helped and improved.
Shaolin Zen Springs from SCM
From 1992 to 1994 I fine-tuned my teaching curriculums by teaching hundreds of students of all ages from 8 to 87, from blind to chemotherapy recoveries, and was able to help everyone by finding many ways to apply Kung Fu to each person. Each week's lessons were detailed with a Kung Fu lesson, a Tai Chi lesson, and some Buddhist Dharma of the Chan (Zen) style.
Like a doctor applying a medicine to a wound, I saw how many of the words and movements and concepts helped some students and didn't help others. This led me to experiment and add words and teaching techniques to make the student's assimilation or enlightenment easier for them. Realizing that what was immediately beneficial for one student was another student's major complaint. "I came here for Kung Fu, not Buddhism!" or "We need more Buddhism and less Kung Fu..."
I also realized that what a student complained about was often the best medicine they could take.
So, in 1999, before leaving Utah, I created the DHARMA DIRECTORY OF SHAOLIN CHI MANTIS to locate and cross-reference the many Buddhism lessons and insure that some spiritual lessons are taught more than once per year. This was my final proof to myself that Shaolin Chi Mantis contained more Buddhism than any other religion or church or monk that I had ever known.
Since 1993, I had been offereing free Zen seminars at the Salt Lake City, YWCA. These seminars and lectures became the foundation of my Shaolin Chi Mantis Kung Fu school offshoot of SHAOLIN ZEN.
I contacted the original Shaolin Monastery on Mt. Songshan and apologized for not naming my new Buddhist sect, Shaolin Chan, as I had originally intended. The problem was that everyone thought it was another Jackie Chan movie. Americans don't realize that "Chan" is the original word for Zen. "Zen" is a Japanese word for "Chan."
Realizing that to communicate effectively, I needed to name my Buddhist religion, Shaolin Zen, I was concerned that the monastery would be offended.
Ironically, they liked my name so much that when they got their own website to promote the Shaolin Temple, they named their website, www.shaolinZEN.com Leaving me with the choices of www.shaolinZEN.net and www.shaolinZEN.org, I obviously chose www.shaolinZEN.org since I was now a religion. The original Shaolin Temple had become a business more than a religion due to government domination, so they were now more of a Kung Fu college than a Buddhist Temple.
A new Abbot presided over the temple and has tried to reclaim the reputation and identity of Shaolin Temple being a Buddhist Church, not a warrior school. This may be why they gave up their website and now it is just a search engine that only provides links to websites that pay a fee or advertisement rates. Too bad.
So, shaolinZEN.org is a website striving to achieve the goals of Bodhidharma, promote Kung Fu as a spiritual discipline, and inspire people to be better animals in the zoo.
The ZEN BUDDHIST PODCAST of SHAOLIN ZEN hosted by Buddha Zhen:
If you're interested in PODCASTS by Buddha Zhen -- email me -- Let me know!
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