Shaolin Temple and Zen Ancestral Court Seminar 2019

Shaolin Temple and Zen Ancestral Court Seminar 2019

Bodhidharma’s teaching continues to be an inspiration to scholars and practitioners of Mahayana Buddhism through the dedicated works of the monks and scholars from the Shaolin temple. Every year the Shongshan Shaolin temple hosts an International seminar on Mahayana Buddhism “Shaolin Temple and Zen Ancestral Court Seminar” “少林寺与禅宗祖庭”研讨会第二次通知”.The Songshan Shaolin Temple was founded in the 19th imperial year of Tai He in the Northern Wei dynasty in 495 AD. It is popularly regarded as the birthplace of Chinese martial arts. Shaolin Temple is renowned in China and abroad for its unique combination of Ch'an (Zen Buddhism) and Wu (Martial arts). In July 17-18 2019, “Shaolin Temple and Zen Ancestral Court Seminar” was held at Shongshan Shaolin templethe theme of the International Seminar on Mahayana Buddhism was ” in memory of Bodhidharma master”. 140 International Scholars from around the world presented papers on Mahayana Buddhism and Bodhidharma.

Professor Huang Xianian
Professor Huang Xianian, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of World Religions of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences made an overall summary of the seminar. He said that the first “Shaolin Temple and Zen Ancestral Court Seminar” was initiated in 2005 by Abbot Master Yongxin. The ability to invite the abbots of the first to sixth ancestors of Zen to participate in this seminar is a feat of Zen in the new era. Professor Huang hopes to take this seminar as an opportunity to find a new path for the development of Zen Buddhism, for the study of Shaolin, and make greater contributions to the sinicization of Buddhism.

Prof. Charles Willemen(right) International Buddhist College , Dr.Das Bikashkali (center) Shaolin Temple and Zen Ancestral Court Seminar 2019
Prof. Charles Willemen(right) International Buddhist College,
Dr.Das Bikashkali (center) Shaolin Temple and Zen Ancestral Court Seminar 2019

Dr.Das Bikashkali presented the paper titled “The origin of Bodhidharma” at the “Shaolin Temple and Zen Ancestral Court Seminar 2019”. The article was published in a 3 volume book by the Shaolin temple, along with the articles of other scholars. This was the first time Bodhidharma's origin from South India was written in records by the Shaolin temple.  His paper tried to put forward the important facts on Bodhidharma’s origin from Southern India. The origin of Bodhidharma is a highly debatable topic, still, there are many scholars debate intellectually in this area. 

Origins of Bodhidharma by Dr. Das Bikashkali

The debates on Origin of Bodhidharma:

Details regarding the origins of Bodhidharma are unclear. Sources of information about his life are very much inconsistent with regard to his origins. The chronology of Bodhidharma’s journey to China, his death, and many other details still remains a debatable topic for scholars. 

The primary sources of his biographical details can be taken as references from

  1. Yang Xuanzhi’s Record kept at the Buddhist Monasteries of Luoyang (547 C.E.),
  2. Tanlin’s biography of Bodhidharma found in the Long Scroll of the Treatise on the Two Entrances and Four Practices (sixth century C.E.),
  3. Daoxuan’s Continued Biographies of Eminent Monks (645 C.E.), and iv)the Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall (952 C.E.), written by two students of Xuěfēng and Yìcún.

These sources vary in their account of Bodhidharma being either “from Persia” (547 CE), “a Brahman monk from South India” (645 CE), “the third son of a Brahman king of South India” (c. 715 CE). Indian tradition describes Bodhidharma to be the third son of a Pallava king from Kanchipuram.

Bodhidharma pursued a life of renunciation and became a follower of Mahayana Buddhism under the Prajnatara(Hannyatara) the 27th Patriarch of Gautam Budha. 20th Century Buddhist practitioners suggest that Prajnatara might have been a woman. The ordination name Prajñātārā combines the names of two female Buddhist deities (Bodhisattva) Prajnaparamita and Tara.12th-century Japanese text written by Zen Master Dogen, The Shobogenzo, structurally preserves a record of the zen lineage, it has referenced Prajnatara as a female monk in chapter 50.

Only scarce historical information is available about Bodhidharma but his hagiography developed when the Chan tradition grew stronger and gained prominence in the early 8th century. By this time a lineage of the six ancestral founders of Chán in China was developed. Bodhidharma is considered by Zen Buddhists to be the twenty-eighth Patriarch in direct lineage to Śākyamuni-Gautama Buddha himself. Bodhidharma has also been credited with the transmission of Zen (Chan) Buddhism from India to China and is known as a Tripitaka Dharma Master. His life and teachings continue to be an inspiration to practitioners of Zen Buddhism in the Shaolin temple.

closing ceremony -Shaolin Temple and Zen Ancestral Court Seminar”