Who was Bodhidharma?
Bodhidharma was an Enlightened Buddhist Master who is credited with reviving Buddhism in China and founding martial arts. He began his life as a royal prince in Southern India in the Sardilli family in 482 A.D. Bodhidharma rapidly progressed in his Buddhist studies, and in time, Prajnatara sent Bodhidharma to China, where Buddhism had begun to die out, to introduce the Sarvastivada sect Buddhist teachings to the Chinese. Bodhidharma arrived in China after a brutal voyage over Tibet's Himalayan Mountains surviving all the extreme elements. Upon arrival in China, the Emperor Wu Ti, a Buddhist himself, requested an audience with Bodhidharma. During their meeting, Wu Ti asked Bodhidharma what merit he had achieved for all of his good deeds. Bodhidharma informed him that he had accrued none whatsoever. Bodhidharma was subsequently unable to convince Wu Ti of the value of the teachings he had brought from India. Bodhidharma then set out for Loyang, crossed the Tse River on a leaf, and climbed Bear's Ear Mountain in the Sung Mountain range where the Shaolin Temple was located. He meditated there in a small cave for nine years. He then, in true Mahayana spirit, was moved to pity when he saw the terrible physical condition of the monks of the Shaolin Temple. The monks had practiced long term meditation retreats, which made them spiritually strong but physically weak. He also noted that this meditation method caused sleepiness among the monks. He then created an exercise program for the monks which involved physical techniques that were efficient, strengthened the body, and eventually, could be used practically in self defense. When Bodhidharma instituted these practices, his number one goal was to make the monks physically strong enough to withstand both their isolated lifestyle and the demanding training that meditation requires. It turned out that the techniques served a dual purpose as a very efficient fighting system, which evolved into a marital arts style called Gung Fu. Martial arts training helped the monks to defend themselves against invading warlords and bandits. He developed a system of 18 dynamic tension exercises. We know this system today as the Lohan 18 Hand Movements, the basis of Chinese Temple Boxing and the Shaolin Arts.