The founder of Zen and the creator of Shaolin Kung Fu and Qigong was the son of a King from the Warrior Caste in India. When he was a boy, his Buddhist teacher showed him a jewel and asked, ‘Is there anything more priceless than this jewel?’ The Bodhidharma replied, ‘The clear light of the mind is worth much more than a priceless jewel.’
It took the Bodhidharma three years to journey from India to China. He carried scrolls of Buddhist teachings with him. When his meeting with the Emperor didn’t go well, he crossed the Yangtze River and arrived at the Shaolin Temple where he was called The Indian Who Stares At A Wall.
His teachings point to a direct experience of Buddha-Nature rather than an intellectual understanding. If you are thirsty, a description of a glass of water will do nothing to quench your thirst.
Bodhidharma placed great importance on practice and physical well-being. It was his experience that keeping our bodies healthy increases our mental energy and prepares us for the rigors that serious meditation practice requires. He also taught us that Shaolin Kung Fu and Qigong act as a pathway to Zen.
Bodhidharma is often depicted with a scowling face. This represents his resilience and determined spirit (it is said that he once pulled his eyebrows out to stop himself from falling asleep while meditating).
When you train in Shaolin Martial Arts, Bodhidharma is one of your most important spiritual ancestors. This doesn’t mean you need to be a Buddhist, you can practice any religion or none at all, and still gain from drawing on this great Indian Master’s powerful energy.
Just like the Buddha, he gave up his riches to become a monk. He had nothing material to gain from his study and practice. His teachings are authentic and from the heart. When I was studying at the Shaolin Temple, our master would often give us a sentence from his teaching and ask us to be mindful of this throughout the week and apply it to our Kung Fu and Qigong Workout. Even though I didn’t always understand, I found it added a flexibility and spaciousness to my mind.
I suggest that you apply it to your training and see how you get on. Here's a month’s worth of Zen to get you started.
- Seek Nothing - “ When you seek nothing, you’re on the Path. To seek nothing is bliss.”
- Look Inside - “Have you not heard it said that everyone’s light is brighter than a thousand suns shining at once. Those in the dark seek outside while the illumined do not remain within.”
- Heart And Mind Now - “Walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, everything you do is Zen. To know that the mind is empty is to see the Buddha. To see no mind is to see the Buddha."
- Transcend Everyday - “To transcend motion and stillness is the highest meditation. Mortals keep moving, and Buddhas stay still. But the highest meditation surpasses both that of mortals and that of Buddhas. People who reach such understanding free themselves from all appearances without effort and cure all illnesses without treatment. Such is the power of Zen.”