MAHAKASHYAP, 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...

ANANDA, 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...

SANAKAVASA, 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...

UPAGUPTA, 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...

DHRITAKA, 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 directions.

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." ...


MICHAKA, 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..."

VASUMITRA, 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...

BUDDHANANDI, 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...

BUDDHAMITRA, 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 his son...

PARSVA, 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...
Punyayasas
PUNYAYASAS, 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...

ASVAGHOSA, 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...

KAPIMALA, 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...

NAGARJUNA, 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...

KANADEVA, 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...

RAHULATA, 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 congregation...

SANGHANANDI, 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:

Adoration 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...


GAYASATA, 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 like quietude...

KUMARATA, 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 realm...

JAYATA, 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...
Vasubandhu
VASUBANDHU, 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...

MANORHITA, 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 walking...


HAKLENA, 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...

ARYASIMHA, 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...

BASIASITA, 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...

PUNYAMITRA, 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...

PRAJNATARA, 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...
Bodhidharma
BODHIDHARMA, 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 originally Bodhitara.  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 India...