Who is Bodhidharma? The question, popularised by the Telugu movie ‘7th Sense’ is shrouded in mystery, and director A. R. Murugadoss has attempted to bring back the forgotten chapter into public gaze after a ‘thorough’ background research.
But, the founder of Sailum Zen Monastery in Bangalore, Babu T. Raghu disputes the ‘historical’ account on ‘Bodhidharma’ in the movie and terms it as ‘completely erroneous’.
“The life and legend of the 28th Zen Patriarch Bodhidharma was distorted to suit the requirement of the movie script, and hence, the character of the monk suffered extensively. None of the ‘historical’ aspects as shown in the movie are correct,” he argues.
“Historical accounts say that Bodhidharma took up Buddhism at an age of seven years and travelled to China, at an age of 150 years, to spread the Dhyana culture of Mahayana Buddhism.
But the movie depicts him as a married man with two children, and that he took to Buddhism on the way to China. And even worse, he was shown as going to China to cure a disease and teach fighting skills to the villagers,” Mr. Raghu said.
“Bodhidharma confined himself to a cave and never spoke to people for nine years, and there was no mention of Bodhidharma fighting with anyone,” Mr. Raghu, a Buddhist researcher said. His life and death were also depicted wrongly in the movie, he added.
“The young Bodhidharma was shown as practicing martial arts in Kanchi town, whereas my research shows that he practiced at the ‘Sri Parvata’ (Nagarjunakonda) area in Andhra Pradesh. Bodhidharma, who attained the ‘vajra kaya’ status, which means that he was immune to diseases and poisons, had to be away from the bustling metropolis like Kanchi town to attain this state,” the researcher maintained.
‘Body never found’
The movie also showed the exhumation of his body, but historical accounts indicate that Bodhidharma’s body was never found when the tomb was reopened, Mr. Raghu said.
Mr. Raghu felt that the director should have exercised caution in declaring his version as authentic.
“While appreciating the freedom of artistic expression, the director should have at least made a disclaimer that this is one of the versions of the available legends, or that he adapted the story to suit the movie. Forgetting or neglecting a history is much better than distorting it,” he felt.
Director Murugadoss was not available for comment.
This article was published in The Hindu on November 15, 2011