Jeffrey L. Broughton

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online April 2012 | | DOI:

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Countless paintings by East Asian artists have attempted to catch the essence of the enigmatic Buddhist master Bodhidharma, the “founder” of Chan. He is said to be the twenty-eighth patriarch in the mind-to-mind transmission of the torch of enlightenment down from Śākyamuni Buddha and the six buddhas preceding him. Chan texts show two transliterations for “Bodhidharma” (Putidamo 菩提達摩/菩提達磨) as well as the variant Putidamoduoluo (菩提達摩多羅). “Putidamoduoluo” has been variously reconstructed in Sanskrit as Bodhidharmatrāta, Bodhidharmatara, etc. We have many detailed biographical notices for this Chan patriarch, a fair number of texts claiming to present his teachings, and a wealth of Bodhidharma images executed over the centuries throughout East Asia. Modern scholarship on Bodhidharma can be classified into the following approaches: (1) construction of a historical biography (texts for such a biography range from the 6th to the 13th centuries), (2) search for and exposition of an “authentic” text of Bodhidharma teachings, (3) “structuralist” analysis of the Bodhidharma hagiography, and (4) art-historical/iconographical treatment of Bodhidharma images, principally paintings. This article deals with each of these four approaches in turn.

Article.  9280 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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