Born a prince in Pallava kingdom in South India to the king of Kanchipuram, Bodhidharma left kingdom at an early age to follow the Mahayana path and became a monk.
The youngest of three brothers, Bodhidharma was trained in breathing exercises as he was born with a breathing disorder. He was also trained in Dravidian warfare and self-defense techniques.
Bodhidharma studied Dhyana Buddhism and became the 28th patriarch of this religion. At the age of 22, Bodhidharma attained enlightenment and was sent to China as a messenger.
It was Gautama Buddha who taught Dhyana or meditation but it was after 100 years that Bodhidharma took meditation to China where it became Chan and spread to other countries like Indonesia, Japan and to the Far East where it became Zen. In Chan texts, Bodhidharma is referred as `The Blue-Eyed Barbarian'. His teachings and practice were based on meditation and Lankavatara Sutra.
Bodhidharma is also regarded as the founder of weaponless fighting art, which gave birth to modern day martial arts. Read on to know more.
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