Friday, January 23, 2009

Buddhism, the Light Of Asia

Buddhism, the Light Of Asia

The combination of Buddha and his diligent Sishya Ananda gave to the world the wisdom and anecdotes of Lord Buddha. Ananda was a man of organization par excellence as well. He translated into action the philosophy of Buddha ¡°Sangham Saranam Gacchami¡± and laid the foundation for Buddhist Sangha. From this organized group of Buddhism, several monks went to different countries. By 7th century, Buddhism had become the religion of entire Asia. Buddhism had spread to areas now known as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Mongolia, Taiwan, Korea right upto Japan, thus accounting for more than one-third of the world¡¯s population.

How India conquered China without sending a single soldier

One incident that is related to Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu is as follows. One of the three sons of Suganda, a Brahmin king of Kanchipuram of 6th century took to Buddhist monkhood to avoid conflict in the race for royal succession. His master having trained this young prince now called Bodhi Dharma (470 ¨C 543 CE) and asked him to go to China and strengthen Buddhism. Bodhidharma arrived in China after a brutal trek over Tibet's Himalayan mountains surviving both the extreme elements and treacherous bandits. The emperor of China Wu Ti, a devote Buddhist himself welcomed Bodhi Dharma. He posed him three questions. ¡°How many Buddha Viharas or Temples have you built?¡± Bodhi Dharma replied ¡°None¡±. Then he asked Bodhi Dharma, ¡°What is the central theme of Buddha¡¯s teachings?¡± (There are several aspects of Buddha¡¯s teachings. Some may say compassion as the central hallmark, some may say Ahimsa as the cardinal teaching of Buddha. In the philosophical world, Buddha¡¯s teaching was soonya vada which means to negate the worldly things, to crush the mind and remove all the thought process in it. Stilling the mind or vast emptiness is the essence of soonya vada). Hence Bodhi Dharma replied ¡°¡®nothing¡¯ is the essence of Buddha¡¯s teachings¡±. The third question the king posed was, ¡°Who are you?¡± Again Bodhi Dharma replied, ¡°I do not know¡±. Because in philosophy, the moment you come to know who you are, you get liberated. All the three answers of Bodhi Dharma did not satisfy the worldly king who therefore ordered Bodhi Dharma to leave his court.

Poti Daruma as he is more popularly known in China, left the court, crossed the very turbulent, river 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 and his meditative image got impregnated on the wall of the Shaolin Cave. Most foreign visitors to China are drawn towards this miraculous image of Poti Daruma.

Bodhi Dharma, in true Mahayana spirit, was moved to pity when he saw the terrible physical condition of the monks of the Shaolin Temple. Likening them to the young Shakyamuni, who almost died from practicing asceticism, he informed the monks that he would teach their bodies and their minds the Buddha's dharma through a two-part program of meditation and physical training. Bodhi Dharma, a master of staff fighting, developed a system of marital arts style called Gung Fu, the rules of which were printed in 550 A.D. His meditation was called Chan Buddhism (derived from Sanskrit word DHYAN). Chan is the most common family name in China. Jackie Chan is a name popular around the globe. When Chan Buddhism reached Korea and Japan the same was called Zen Buddhism. Today Zen Buddhism is the fastest growing religion in the world. Every household in China has an image of Bodhi Dharma. In China and Japan there are thousands of temples with the statue and image of the bearded Bodhi Dharma. It is ironical indeed that in Bharat, nay, in Kanchipuram even, none know of him. Hu Shih, former Ambassador of China to USA said: India conquered and dominated China culturally for 20 centuries without ever having to send a single soldier across her border.

No comments: