THE FIRST PATRIARCH, was a native of the kingdom of Magadha and was of
the brahmin caste. Marsh Drinker was his father's name, and his
mother's was Incense Offerer.
In a previous incarnation he had been a smith, well-acquainted with
the nature of metals and able to shape them as he wished. This
was described in the History of the Handing Down of the Dharma: "Once
upon a time, after Vipasyin Buddha of the ancient past had entered into
nirvana, monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen built a stupa. The
golden face of the Buddha-image enshrined in the stupa had a small
defect. Therefore a woman brought a bead of gold to the
goldsmith, asking him to repair the face of the Buddha. Soon
after, the woman and the smith vowed to enter into a spiritual,
non-carnal marriage. Because of this relationship, they were
later reborn into the Brahman Heaven, where for ninety-one eons their
bodies were entirely golden-colored, until this natural longevity came
to an end." In this incarnation he was reborn into a brahmin family
in the kingdom of Magadha in central India. They named him
Kasyapa, meaning "Excellently Holy Drinker of Light," perhapsin reference to his golden color...
THE SECOND PATRIARCH, was a man from Rajagriha Castle; he was of the
noble caste. His father was King Dronodana, and he was a true
cousin of the Buddha. The Sanskrit name Ananda means "joy" or "delight," and he was named this because he was born during the night on which the Buddha attained his enlightenment...
THE THIRD PATRIARCH, was a native of the kingdom of Mathura.
Another version of his name was Sanavasika. He was of the
merchant caste; Excellent Forest was his father's name, and his
mother's was Extravagant. He waited six years before being born
from his mother's womb...
THE FOURTH PATRIARCH, was a native of the kingdom of Pataliputra.
He was of the peasant caste, and his father's name was Good
Will. Ordained as a monk at seventeen, he bore witness to the
result of enlightenment at the age of twenty...
THE FIFTH PATRIARCH, was a man from the kingdom of Magadha. Just
before he was born, his father had a vision. A golden sun rose up
from his house, illuminating heaven and earth, and in front of the
house stood a huge mountain decorated with jewels. At the peak of
the mountain was a fountain from which streams gushed into the four
When he had grown into a young man, Incense Congregation met Master
Upagupta, who interpreted the dream for him. Upagupta said, "The
jewelled mountain means myself, and the gushing fountain is the
inexhaustability of the dharma. The sun rising above the roof
signifies you, now coming into the way. When it illuminates
heaven and earth it will show the transcendence of your wisdom.
Until now your name has been Incense Congregation, but I rename
you Dhritaka. This name means "Penetrating the True Substance."
THE SIXTH PATRIARCH, was a native of central India. After the
dharma had been transmitted to him, his mission took him on a journey
to a kingdom in northern India. When he arrived there, he saw a
propitious golden-colored haze over the parapet of a walled town. He
breathed deeply and said, "This has the air of a spiritual presence.
Here must live the man who will succeed me in the dharma..."
THE SEVENTH PATRIARCH, came from a kingdom in northern India. His
surname was Paradha, and every day he used to put on clean clothes and
walk to the gate of the walled village carrying a wine-pitcher.
Sometimes he sang, sometimes he whistled, and the people thought
him mad. Upon meeting Master Michaka, who described his
prediction by the Tathagata, he recollected his relationship with a
former Buddha, threw away the wine-pitcher, renounced the world, and
received the transmission of the dharma...
THE EIGHTH PATRIARCH, was a native of the kingdom of Kamala. His
surname was Gautama, he had the protuberance on top of his head, one of
the 32 signs of an enlightened one, and his eloquence was limitless. At
the beginning he met Master Vasumitra, who ordained him as a homeless
monk and taught him...
THE NINTH PATRIARCH, was a native of the kingdom of Dhataka and was of
the merchant caste. After he received the transmission from
Master Buddhanandi he went to central India, where he was active in
making the message known. A wealthy man named Incense Cover brought him
THE TENTH PATRIARCH, was a man from central India. His original
name was Difficult Delivery. When he was about to be born, his father
dreamed of a white elephant on whose back was a jewelled throne...
THE ELEVENTH PATRIARCH, (img right) was from the kingdom of
Pataliputra; his surname was Gautama. Treasure Body was the
name of his father. After he had obtained the dharma from Master Parsva
he went to the kingdom of Varanasi...
THE TWELFTH PARTRIARCH, was a native of the kingdom of Varanasi.
He was sometimes known as Excellent Merit, since all his actions,
intentional and unintentional, were of such distinguished merit. After
receiving the teaching from Master Punyayasas, he turned the wonderful
dharma-wheel in the kingdom of Pataliputra...
THE THIRTEENTH PATRIARCH, was a native of the kingdom of Pataliputra.
At first he was a heretic with three thousand followers and was
well versed in many heterodox theories. Later he obtained the dharma
from Master Asvaghosa and took his three thousand followers to western
India. Hearing of his fame, the Crown Prince Free Cloud invited him to
his palace and wished to shower gifts upon him...
THE FOURTEENTH PATRIARCH, was a native of western India. He was
also known as Dragon Master, and he obtained the dharma from Master
Kapimala. He travelled in western India, where most of the people
believed in good works. When they heard the Master preach the
wonderful dharma, they said to each other, "The most important thing of
all is to do beneficial things for society. What is the use of
this empty talk about 'Buddha-nature?' Who has ever seen it?" The
Master told them...
THE FIFTEENTH PATRIARCH, came from a kingdom in south India; his
surname was Vesala. He was eloquent and sought the Way through
good works, but then he encountered Master Nagarjuna and found the
gate. Nagarjuna recognized him as a man of wisdom. First he sent
an attendant with instructions to place a bowl filled with water in
front of his seat...
THE SIXTEENTH PATRIARCH, was a man from the kingdom of Kapila.
Journeying on his mission, he came to Sravasti Castle, where
there flowed the Gold Water River with its specially sweet tasting
water. The shadows of the five Buddhas were cast in the midst of
this stream and were reflected repeatedly. The Master said to the
THE SEVENTEENTH PATRIARCH, came from Sravasti Castle and was the son of
King Glorious Treasure. From birth he uttered words in praise of
everything having to do with the Buddha. When seven years old he
became tired of worldly enjoyments and declared to his parents:
to my great compassionate father! Homage to the mother of my flesh and
bone! I am now renouncing my home life -- Pray take pity on my decision!
His parents tried hard to stop him, but...
THE EIGHTEENTH PATRIARCH, was a native of the kingdom of Madra, and his
surname was Udra Ramaputra. His father was named Heavenly Parasol
and his mother was Square Sage. When she had conceived the baby
she dreamed of a great deity holding a mirror. Seven days later
the baby was born, and even before it was bathed, its body was as clear
as a bead of jade, and had its own pure fragrance. From his infancy he
THE NINETEENTH PATRIARCH, came from Great Tukhara Kingdom and was the
son of a brahmin. Once upon a time, when he was a heavenly being in the
Independent Heaven, the sixth heaven of the sensuous realm, he gazed
longingly at the necklace of a bodhisattva and therefore fell down to
the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, the second heaven of the sensuous
THE TWENTIETH PATRIARCH, came from a kingdom in northern India.
His wisdom was profound and skillful, and the activity of his
mission was limitless.In his later years he went to Rajagriha Castle,
where he disseminated the teaching of abruptness. Here there were
scholars who esteemed only eloquence; their leader was Vasubandhu
-- "Far Walker". This monk always took one meal a day...
THE TWENTY-FIRST PATRIARCH (img right), was a man from Rajagriha Castle
and was of the merchant caste. His father was named Light Cover
and his mother was Strict One. Although they were wealthy, they
had no children, and going to a Buddha-stupa they prayed together for
an heir. One night Strict One dreamed that she had swallowed two gems,
one bright and the other dark, and she knew she had conceived.
After seven days passed, an arhat named Wise Congregation came to the house...
THE TWENTY-SECOND PATRIARCH, was from Nadi Kingdom and was the son of
King Ever-Self Being. When thirty years old he encountered Master
Vasubandhu, who ordained him as a homeless monk and transmitted to him
the dharma. Later Master Manorhita went to western India, where
the king was named Ordination, and belonged to the Gautama clan.
This king took refuge in the Buddha vehicle and made great
efforts to keep the daily discipline. One day when he was out
THE TWENTY-THIRD PATRIARCH, was a man from the Tukhara Kingdom and
belonged to the brahmin caste. His father was named Thousand
Victories and his mother was Golden Light. They were without children
and prayed for a child at the Golden Curtain of 1007 Buddhas.
Then the mother dreamed of being on the peak of Mount Sumeru and
meeting a heavenly boy with a golden aura who announced his arrival.
On awakening from this dream the baby was conceived. When he was
seven years olds, Haklena was walking...
THE TWENTY-FOURTH PATRIARCH, came from central India and was of the
brahmin caste. Having obtained the dharma, he travelled on
his mission-journey to the kingdom of Kashmir. In that territory
a man named Haklena had practiced dhyana contemplation, and five sects had arisen from his teaching: Dhyana Samadhi, Intellectual Views, Holding Formality, Abandoning Formality, and Non-Speaking...
THE TWENTY-FIFTH PATRIARCH, came from the kingdom of Kashmir and was of
the brahmin caste. His father's name was Tranquil Walker and his
mother was Ever Content. Before his conception his mother dreamed
of obtaining a divine sword. The baby was born clenching his left
hand, but when he encountered Master Aryasimha the cause of this from a
previous life was revealed.After secretly receiving the spiritual seal
from Aryasimha, Master Basiasita travelled first to southern India and
then to central India...
THE TWENTY-SIXTH PATRIARCH, was the heir of King Victorious Winner of
southern India. After being ordained and receiving the dharma he went
to eastern India. The king in that territory was a heretic named
Hard Firm, who had a long-nailed ascetic yogi as his teacher.
While Master Punyamitra was approaching this country, the king and yogi
both saw a white light shimmering...
THE TWENTY-SEVENTH PATRIARCH, was a man from eastern India. After
obtaining the dharma he travelled on his mission-journey to southern
India. The king of the country there was named Incense Arrival;
he was devoted to the Buddha-vehicle and truly esteemed the
teaching. One day this king offered a priceless diamond to the Master.
Now, the king had three sons, of whom the youngest was an
enlightened one. The Master wished to test what they had gained,
and holding the gem which had been offered to him, he said, "This
gem is completely clear. Is there anything which can match it?"
The first son...
THE TWENTY-EIGHTH PARTRIARCH OF INDIA, AND THE FIRST PATRIARCH OF CHINA
(img right), was the the third son of Incense Arrival, the king of a
country in southern India. He was of the noble caste and his name was
He encountered Prajnatara, the twenty-seventh patriarch of Chan,
when the latter visited the king and was offered a gift by him.
With the gem that had been given him, Prajnatara tested
Bodhitara's spirituality, as well as that of his two brothers, and
learned of Bodhitara's hidden vocation.
Master Prajnatara said to him, "You have comprehended the dharma,
which means you have penetrated the Great Matter. You should be
called Dharma. I rename you Bodhidharma."
Bodhidharma asked, "Now that I have attained the dharma, to which
country should I go to promote the activity of the Buddha? Please
give me an indication." Prajnatara replied, "Although you have gained
the dharma, you must not go far away yet, but must stay in southern