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Chan Buddhism: -


The practice of Shaolin Kung Fu includes the deeper understanding of Chan Buddhism. The studying of Chan Buddhism is simply the deeper understanding of one's true self.

This following is a story about the travels of a monk known in India as Bodhidharma and in China as Da Mo. After years of meditation at the Shaolin Temple, Da Mo founded the philosophy of Chan Buddhism.

The Beginning of Buddhism
Buddhism was founded over 2,500 years ago in the country of Nepal by a man named Shiyamuni. This new philosophy developed and 400 years later reached neighboring India. From India, Buddhism spread quickly to China and most of Asia. The first Buddhist temple in China was the White Horse temple or "Bai Ma Si" as it is called in Chinese.

By the time Buddhism reached India, it had split into two major branches. The Mizhong branch of Buddhism had five major sub-branchings. The Shenzhong branch of Buddhism had many major sub-branchings. Mizhong Buddhists may be recognized by their dress, which is similar to the Dalai Lama's clothing. The dress of a Shaolin disciple is typical of Shenzhong Buddhist clothing.

By the year 495 AD, Buddhism was well established in China. At this time a Buddhist monk named Ba Tuo entered China teaching a form of Buddhism known as Xiao Xing Buddhism. Ba Tuo was given land in the Henan province of China to found a temple. This temple was named Shaolin, a name taken from its position at the foot of Shao Shi mountain and the surrounding forest ("lin" is the Chinese word for forest).

Around the time that Ba Tuo was founding the Shaolin Temple there lived an Indian prince named Bodhidharma. Bodhidharma was the son of King Sugundha, ruler of India. Bodhidharma had two older brothers who were jealous of his great intelligence. They feared that their father would pass them over and give the kingship to his favored son, Bodhidharma. The two older brothers would often speak poorly of Bodhidharma when conversing with their father and others, hoping always to poison other minds against him. One of his brothers even attempted to assassinate Bodhidharma. All of these actions failed because Bodhidharma had good karma.

The actions of his brothers, however, changed Bodhidharma. Realizing that he did not wish
to live a life of politics, Bodhidharma chose to devote himself to Buddha. He studied with a famous master. After studying with his master for many years, Bodhidharma asked his master what he should do when his master passed away. His Master replied that he should go to Jen Dan, which was the name for China at that time.

When his master passed away, Bodhidharma prepared to leave for China. During his years as a Buddhist, one of Bodhidharma's older brothers had become king and that older brother's son, Bodhidharma's nephew, was now king. Bodhidharma's nephew was very
fond of his uncle and wanted to make amends for the actions of his father. He asked Bodhidharma to stay with him in India, where he could protect his uncle. Bodhidharma replied that the life he would have to lead if he stayed would not be the life he was meant to live. Rather, Bodhidharma was meant to spread peace and harmony by the doing of good things.

Understanding that his uncle could not stay, the king of India ordered that carrier pigeons be sent to China. These birds carried messages asking the people of China to take care of the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma when he came to China. These messages spread over China and many people heard of Bodhidharma. They wondered what was so important about this Buddhist monk that the king of India should speak on his behalf.

In 527, 32 years after the founding of Shaolin Temple, Bodhidharma arrived in Canton province in China. In China he was referred to as "Da Mo".

Upon his arrival, Da Mo encountered a large crowd of people who had heard of his approach and wanted to hear what this famous monk had traveled so far to say. Instead of speaking, Da Mo sat down and began meditating. He meditated for many hours. During these hours, members of the crowd asked Da Mo questions to which he did not reply. After hours of meditation, Da Mo rose and walked away, saying nothing.

His actions had a profound effect on the crowd. Some people laughed, some cried, some nodded their heads as if in understanding, and some were angry at Da Mo's silence. Regardless of degree, every member of the crowd had a reaction.

This encounter with the crowd made Da Mo even more famous. So famous that the Emperor Lung, who ruled the southern kingdom of China, invited Da Mo to his palace. They met and the emperor gave an audience to Da Mo. The emperor spoke of all the money he had donated to Buddhist temples and of all the statues he had erected in the name of Buddha. He asked Da Mo if he, the emperor, had done good things. Da Mo replied no. This surprised the emperor but they continued talking. Eventually, the emperor asked Da Mo if there was Buddha in this world. Da Mo again replied no.

Da Mo's replies were a reflection of the emperor. In boasting of his good deeds, the emperor was not simply acting in the best interests of his people, as was the duty of an emperor. Rather he was seeking the approval of a famous Buddhist monk. Similarly, in asking if there was Buddha in this world, he was demonstrating his lack of faith. To question the existence of Buddha is to fail to truly believe in Buddha.

Of course, these replies infuriated the emperor and he ordered Da Mo to leave his palace. Da Mo simply turned and walked out of the palace.

Da Mo continued his journey north and reached Nanjing city. In Nanjing city there is a famous place called the Flower Rain Pavilion. In this place there was gathered a large crowd, seated around a Buddhist monk who was lecturing. This Buddhist monk was named Shin Huang. Shin Huang had at one time been a great general. He had killed many people in battle. One day he realized that all of the people he had killed had friends and family and that one day someone might come and kill him. This thought changed him and he decided to become a Buddhist monk. He became a famous speaker and at this time the crowd was gathered to listen to him.

As Shin Huang spoke, Da Mo approached the crowd and also listened. Sometimes Shin Huang would say something and Da Mo would shake his head in agreement. Sometimes Shin Huang would say something and Da Mo would shake his head in disagreement. As this continued, Shin Huang became very irritated. Who was this foreign monk to come and disagree with him in front of this crowd?

Eventually Shin Huang became angry and took the Buddhist beads from around his neck and flicked them at Da Mo. The beads struck Da Mo and knocked out two of his front teeth. Da Mo began bleeding and Shin Huang expected some sort of confrontation. Instead, Da Mo
smiled, turned around and walked away. This reaction amazed Shin Huang, who immediately began following after Da Mo.

Da Mo continued north and he reached the Yangtse river, which divided the northern and southern kingdoms of China. Seated on the bank of the Yangtse river was an old woman.
Next to the old woman was a large bundle of reeds. Da Mo asked the old woman if he might have one of the reeds. She replied that of course he may. Da Mo took a single reed and placed it upon the surface of the Yangtse river. Stepping onto this reed, Da Mo was carried across the Yangtse river by the force of his chi.

Shin Huang reached the Yangtse in time to see Da Mo's crossing. Feeling that he could do the same thing, Shin Huang ran up to the old woman and, without asking, grabbed a handful of reeds. Throwing these reeds onto the river, Shin Huang stepped onto them. The reeds sank beneath his weight and he began drowning. The old woman took pity on his plight and she pulled him from the river. As Shin Huang lay on the ground coughing up river water, the old woman spoke to him. She told him that by not asking for her reeds before taking them, he had shown her disrespect. In showing her disrespect, he had failed to respect himself. She also told him that he was searching for a master, someone to teach him. Da Mo, the man he was following, was that master. As she said this, the reeds which had previously sunk beneath Shin Huang surfaced again and Shin Huang found himself standing on the reeds. He was carried across the river and immediately began following after Da Mo.

There are many people who believe that the old woman was a boddhisatva who had been sent to help Shin Huang.

At this point, Da Mo was nearing Shaolin temple. The Shaolin monks had heard of his approach and had gathered to invite Da Mo to the temple.

Behind the Shaolin Temple there are five breast-shaped mountains. When the Shaolin monks invited Da Mo to come stay at the temple, Da Mo did not reply. Instead, he immediately went to a cave which was located on one of the breast-shaped mountains. Inside the cave Da Mo sat down facing a wall and immediately began meditating.

He meditated for nine years. During the years of meditation, Shin Huang stayed outside Da Mo's cave and protected Da Mo from any wild animals or other threats. Periodically Shin Huang would ask Da Mo to teach him but Da Mo would never reply. The Shaolin monks would also periodically visit Da Mo's cave and invite him to stay in the temple, where he would be much more comfortable. Da Mo would never reply. After time, Da Mo's concentration became so intense that his image was engraved into the cave wall before him. Today, this stone is kept in the Shaolin temple as a reminder of Da Mo's meditation.

Towards the end of Da Mo's nine year meditation, the Shaolin monks decided to do
something more for Da Mo. They prepared a special room for him which they called the Da Mo Ting. They then went back to the cave of Da Mo and invited him to stay in this room, where he would be much more comfortable. Da Mo did not reply but he responded by rising and walking down to the room. Upon entering the room, Da Mo immediately sat down and began meditating.

Shin Huang followed Da Mo to the temple and stood guard outside his room while Da Mo meditated for another four years. Periodically, Shin Huang would still ask Da Mo to teach him. Towards the end of the four years, Shin Huang had followed Da Mo for thirteen years but Da Mo had never said anything to Shin Huang.

After thirteen years of silence from Da Mo, Shin Huang was standing outside of Da Mo's room in the wintertime. It was extremely cold, snow and ice covered the ground. Becoming enraged at Da Mo's silence, Shin Huang picked up a large block of snow and ice and hurled it into Da Mo's room. The snow and ice struck the floor and Da Mo was awakened from his
meditation. Da Mo looked at Shin Huang and in anger and frustration, Shin Huang demanded to know when Da Mo would teach him. Da Mo finally replied, saying that he would teach Shin Huang when red snow fell from the sky.

When he heard this, something inside Shin Huang changed and he took the sword from around his belt and cut off his left arm. Raising the severed arm above his head, Shin Huang whirled the arm above his head. The blood from the arm froze as it fell in the cold air, like red snow.

Seeing this, Da Mo agreed to teach Shin Huang.

In front of the Shaolin temple, at the foot of Shao Shi mountain, there are five little mountains. The mountains are named the Bell, Drum, Stamp, Sword and Flag mountains,
named thusly because they are shaped like their namesakes. Da Mo took a monk's spade and went with Shin Huang to the Drum Mountain. The Drum mountain was so named because it was flat on top, like the surface of a drum. In taking Shin Huang to the Drum mountain, Da Mo was sending an unspoken message that Shin Huang should flatten his heart in the same way that a drum was flat.

Upon the surface of the Drum mountain, Da Mo dug a well for Shin Huang. The water of this well was bitter. Da Mo left Shin Huang on the Drum mountain for a year and for that year Shin Huang used the bitter water of Da Mo's well to cook, to clean, to bathe and to drink. After using the bitter water for a year, Shin Huang returned to Da Mo and asked him again to teach him. Da Mo took Shin Huang back to the Drum mountain and dug a second well for him. The water of this well was spicy. For an entire year, Shin Huang used the spicy water for all of his needs. At the end of the second year, Shin Huang returned to Da Mo and asked again to be taught. Da Mo returned with Shin Huang to the Drum mountain and dug a third well. The water of this well was sour. For the third year, Shin Huang used the sour water for all of his needs. At the end of that year, Shin Huang returned to Da Mo and
asked again to be taught. Da Mo again took Shin Huang to the Drum mountain and dug a fourth and final well. The water of this well was sweet.

Shin Huang realized that the four wells which Da Mo had dug represented his life. Sometimes his life would be bitter and sometimes spicy, sometimes sour and sometimes sweet. Without speaking to him, Da Mo had taught Shin Huang the most important of lessons through his actions. Upon realizing this, Shin Huang was given the name Hui Ke and he became abbot of the Shaolin temple after Da Mo.

To pay respect to Hui Ke sacrifice, Shaolin disciples greet each other using only their right hand.