Bodhidharma

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Traditionally, the founder of Zen and the Shaolin school of "Kung Fu". In Chinese Buddhism, his name is transliterated as Pu2 Ti2 Da2 Mo2 (菩提達摩) or simply Da2 Mo2.

Legend has it that Bodhidharma travelled from India (the homeland of Buddhism) to teach in China, where he found would-be Buddhists preoccupied with scholasticism and attempting to earn favorable karma through good works.

When the Emperor asked him how much merit he had accumulated through building temples and endowing monasteries, Bodhidharma replied, "None at all." Perplexed, the Emperor then asked, "Well, what is the fundamental teaching of Buddhism?" "Vast emptiness," was the bewildering reply. "Listen," said the Emperor, now losing all patience, "just who do you think you are?" "I have no idea," Bodhidharma replied.

With this Bodhidharma was banished from the Court, and is said to have sat in meditation for the next seven years "listening to the ants scream."

Eventually becoming the master of Shaolin monastery, he supposedly found the students so out-of-shape from a life of bloodless study that he introduced a regimen of martial excercises, the foundation of all later schools of Kung Fu.

Bodhidharma is probably about as historical as King Arthur.