Daruma (Bodhidharma) is regarded as the founder of Zen. He is also called "Bodai Daruma" (written as 菩提達磨 in Chinese characters, बोधिधर्म in Sanskrit, and Pútídámó in pinyin), Darumasoshi, and Darumadaishi. Daruma means 'law' in Sanskrit. While Daruma 達磨 can also be written as 達摩, 達磨 is used in the so-called Chinese Zen books, and 達摩 is used in old manuscripts. It is considered that the reason for reading '達' ('dachi') as 'daru' is that the nissho (one of the four tones in Chinese) 't' of kango (words of Chinese origin) which was used in the Middle Ages changed into the liquid 'l' in the Korean pronunciation of kanji (based on adopted Chinese pronunciations), and 達 'dat' changed into the sound 'dal' in the Korean Peninsula on its way to Japan. In pictures, Daruma is mostly drawn with a piercing look, beard, and earrings.
Daruma was born as the third prince in a kingdom in South India and worked as a Buddhist priest in China. He lived during the late fifth century to the early sixth century. He founded the Chinese Zen sect. According to the "Keitokudentoroku" (books of the genealogy of Zen Buddhism, consisting of biographies of priests in India and China), he was the 28th leader counting from Shaka (Shkyamuni). He crossed the sea and went to the southern part of China, and performed menpeki (facing the wall for meditation) at Suzan Shorin-ji Temple (Mountain Sung Shaolin Temple) in the outskirts of Luoyang (Loyang). According to verifiable sources he had at least two disciples, Donrin and Eka. In the beginning, Daruma's religious school was called Ryogashu school. One of the goroku (sayings) which recorded his accomplishments as well as his words and deeds is "Ninyushigyoron".
Daruma is also called 'Dharma' (written as ダーマ). While many legends exist concerning Bodai Daruma, their historical credibility remains doubtful. Although it is said that he was born as the third son of a king called Koshi in Nantenjiku (South India) and became the 28th Bodhi Dharma of Buddhism after acquiring the teachings of Hannyatara, the oldest reference to Bodai Daruma is found in the "Rakuyo Garanki", which was compiled by Yogenshi in 547 and whose title was Togi Bugunfu Shima (Bungunfu Shima in Eastern Wei), and the record is regarded as the source of all the legends concerning Daruma.
Toki ni seiikino shamon de bodai daruma to iu mono ari, perusha kuni no kojin nari.
Tachite harukanaru yori chudo ni raiyusu
Around this time there was a priest called Bodai Daruma in the western region of China. He was a barbarian from Persia. He came to our land of China from a land of barbarians far away.
Seeing the golden plates of the tower of Einei-ji Temple sparkle under the sun, the light shining above the clouds, and golden bells blown by wind ringing, and the sound reaching the sky, he sang words of admiration and highly praised the sight as an act of God. He said that he was 150 years old, had traveled various places, and there was no place where he had not set his foot, but the beauty of this temple was like no other in man's world, and that something like this could not be found anywhere, however hard anyone searched; he put the palms of his hands together and uttered 'Namu' for a number of days. Taken from "Rakuyojonaigaranki", a record on the prosperity of shrines and temples in Rakuyo under the Northern Wei Dynasty, Vol. I (Chapter on Einei-ji Temple).
Furthermore, the oldest goroku (saying) concerning Daruma is found in "Ninyushigyo ron" (literally, "the way to the two truths, and methods for the four practices"), which, being the original model for legends concerning Daruma, also conveys Daruma's thought.
In 520, Daruma crossed the sea and went to China to proselytize his beliefs. On October 18, he landed in Guangzhou City. China at the time was in the period of the Northern and Southern Dynasties and divided, and the Southern Dynasty was ruled by the Liang Dynasty.
"Keitoku Dento roku" (Transmission of the Lamp) Vol. III
According to this book, Emperor Wu Di of the Liang Dynasty was a devout believer of Buddhism and gladly welcomed Daruma as a high priest from India. Emperor Wu questioned Daruma as follows.
Teitoteiwaku: "Chin sokuishite irai, tera wo tsukuri, kyo wo utsushi, so (groups of monks, religious communities) wo watasu koto, agete shirusu bekarazu (too numerous to count). Nan no kotoku ari ya." (The Emperor asked: "Ever since I was enthroned, I have built temples, copied scriptures, and allowed people to become monks, and my deeds are too numerous to count; what merits do I get?")
Shiiwaku: "Narabini kotoku nashi." (The master said: "No merit.")
Teiiwaku: "Nani wo motte kotoku nashi ya." (The Emperor asked: "How come there are no merits?")
Shiiwaku: "Kore tada jinten (human world/celestial world) no shoka ni shite yuro no in nari (only creating the cause of earthly desires)." (The master said: "They are small accomplishments within spiritual darkness, and you are only creating the cause of earthly desires.)
"Kage no katachi ni shitagau ga gotoku yu to iedomo jitsu niwa arazu." (Like shadow follows a shape, if a good deed is accompanied by desire, it is not true.)
Teiiwaku: "Ikan ga kore shin no kotoku naru ya." (The Emperor asked: "What could be the true merits?")
Kotaeiwaku: "Jochi wa myoen ni shite, tai mizukara kujaku nari." (The response was: "It is delicate and complete, and it is in itself empty.")
"Kaku no gotoki kotoku wa yo wo motte (in this world) motomarazu." ("Such merit is not found in this world.")
Teimatato: "Ikangakoreshitainodaiichiginaruya." (The Emperor asked again: "What is the ultimate teaching of Buddhism?")
Shiiwaku: "Gakuzen (state of emptiness) musei nari." (The master said: "Having no mind and not seeking merit is the ultimate and true merit.")
Teiiwaku: "Chin ni taisuru mono wa darezo." (The Emperor asked: "Who are you?")
Shiiwaku: "Shirazu (I do not know...because it is empty)." (The master said: "I do not know because my mind is empty.")
Tei, ryogo sezu. (The Emperor did not understand.)
Shi, ki no kana wa nu wo shiri. (The master felt that he was useless here.)
Emperor Wu did not like Daruma's response. Thinking that the meeting was not determined by fate, Daruma moved on to visit the Northern Wei Dynasty. Later Emperor Wu regretted his actions and sent a man to call Daruma back, but he did not succeed.
It is said that in Suzan Shorin-ji Temple, Daruma faced the wall and continued meditating for nine years; however, there is also a theory that this legend resulted from a misperception of Daruma's hekikan (literally, "staring at the wall"). Hekikan comprised the characteristics of Daruma's religious doctrine of 'looking by becoming like a wall', or in other words, 'Zen in which truth is discovered in an unmoving state like a wall'. This thought was assumed by the later established Chinese Zen; for example, it became the definition of zazen, which is said to be a word created by Rokuso Eno (sixth leader Eno).
On January 4, 529, a priest called Shinko showed his determination by cutting his arm and sought to study under Daruma. Daruma admitted Shinko and gave Shinko a new name, Eka. Eka became the second leader of the Zen sect. It is said that Zen spread throughout China from that time.
It is said that Daruma attained senge (the death of a priest of high virtue or a hermit) at the age of 150 on November 2, 528. One theory has it that he was poisoned by Bodhiruci and Kotorisshi, who envied his fame.
As is often the case with kosoden (biographies of high ranking monks) in China, the following story, which could be categorized as shikai (the idea that only through a hermit's power should a soul appear outside the body, with flesh left) in Taoism, was spread later. According to the story, Soun, who was returning from the western region of China as a messenger from the Northern Wei Dynasty met Daruma in Pamir. At the time, Daruma was holding issekibaki, or one of a pair of sandals, in his hand. When Soun asked Daruma where he was heading, Daruma replied that he was "going to India" and informed Soun that Soun's lord was "already dead". When Soun returned from abroad, he learned of the demise of Komei Tei (the ancient Chinese emperor who reigned from 515 to 528 AD). When Koso Tei (the ancient Chinese emperor of the Northern Wei dynasty who reigned from 528 to 530 AD) had Daruma's grave dug up, there was only an issekibaki in the coffin.
Darumazu (Paintings of Daruma)
It is said that Zen was introduced to China by Daruma and was passed down even to Rokuso Eno. Zen was further divided into The Goke Shichishu of Zen (five sects and seven schools derived from the original Zen Buddhism) such as the Rinzaishu sect and the Sotoshu sect. It also had a significant impact on religions in Japan.
Emphasis is placed on Daruma in Zen, and sometimes the word 'Soshi' (founder) is used to refer to him. Soshi Seiraii (The reason why Darma came from the west) according to Zen is in essence the 'fundamental meaning of Buddhism'.
Based on the myth that Daruma's arms and legs became rotten from sitting in the Zen sitting meditation of facing the wall for nine years, the Daruma-doll was created. Daruma-dolls are still popular today as lucky objects.