Zen & Buddhism Q&As

Who founded Zen?

The credit for founding Zen is traditionally given to Bodhidharma (470-543CE). He was an Indian monk, who tradition names as a student of Prajnatara, and 28th in lineage from the Buddha. In an early history, he is described as a teacher of the Lankavatara Sutra. In any case, he travelled (c 526CE) to China where he had a remarkable interview with Emperor.

Emperor: I’ve build many temples and monasteries. How much good karma has this given me?
Bodhidharma: None at all.
Emperor: What does Buddhism teach, then?
Bodhidharma: Great emptiness.
Emperor: Who are you?
Bodhidharma: I don’t know.

After this, Bodhidharma travelled to Shaolin, where he meditated in a cave for 9 years. There he had a number of disciples, including Huike, the second patriarch of Zen, and the first Chinese one.
Bodhidharma is also regarded as the founder of kungfu.

More detailed teachings on Zen and Teachers