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January 16, 2015

Why Bodhidharma Still Matters.

BodhidharmaYoshitoshi87

Bodhidharma was the 28th successor of the Buddha in the Ch’an tradition.

He traveled from India to China in the sixth century. When he arrived he saw that the people he encountered had a very shallow understanding of Buddhism.

When he came to understand Chinese philosophy, he developed the teachings that we now call Ch’an (and Zen). He taught two primary methods of Awakening.

He taught students that there was really no line separating them from the Buddha. The only difference is that the Buddha understood he was Enlightened and the rest of us don’t realize that yet. If we are motivated in the quest to understand our true nature, then we will attain Enlightenment too.

Meditation is a powerful tool for delivering us to Awakening. Bodhidharma called his main teaching wall-gazing. It is simply silent meditation while facing a wall. In this, no thought is given to goals or the path. There is only us and the wall. In this teaching Bodhidharma doesn’t really show us anything, he just instructs us to seek the truth ourselves. We just sit there and stare at a wall until we realize that we don’t need to be shown anything. The truth is within us.

Bodhidharma suggested four methods for walking the path. They are:

1) The practice of repaying wrongs.
2) The practice of adjusting to circumstance.
3) The practice of non-seeking or asking for anything.
4) The practice of upholding the Dharma.

These are the main ideas of Bodhidharma’s teaching.

Bodhidharma suggested wall gazing, but he never said we had to do it all the time. We are also supposed to get on with our lives. When we understand many of our problems come from our own minds, we can get out of our own way. When we control our minds, we control our lives. This is my understanding of the central teachings of Bodhidharma.
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Author: Daniel Scharpenburg

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Wikipedia

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Mark Jan 20, 2015 6:22pm

I am a student of philosophy. I studied it in college and came to the conclusion that almost all of the philosophers in the history of the world are full of it. But, there is Buddhism, there is Jesus. I have been sitting in meditation almost every day for well over ten years now. That's not to brag but, simply to say that I have found no better salve for the ill's of the world than meditation. Pain is inevitable, suffering is ultimately a choice. Bodhidharma was absolutely correct. I was visiting a family member at the hospital. As I waited I found a Psychology Today magazine where they had been running brain scans looking for the happiest people on earth. Who were the happiest people? Zen Buddhist monks in Japan. There's no fooling the brain scans..

geoff Jan 18, 2015 11:55pm

thank you and keep writing as it is inspiring

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Daniel Scharpenburg

Daniel Scharpenburg lives in Kansas City. He’s been practicing Buddhism for nearly 20 years. He teaches at the Open Heart Project Sangha and is a Zen Teacher (Fashi) in the Dharma Winds Zen Order. His main focus is on mindfulness practices rooted in the earliest Zen teachings and compassion practices rooted in the Bodhisattva Tradition. He has taken Bodhisattva Vows and Brahmajala Precepts and he is affiliated with the Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun.
Find out more about Daniel on his blog and connect with him on Facebook