or Ta Mo, was a Brahmin Buddhist missionary who brought the faith to Japan where
he is known as Daruma. So intense was his desire to attain liberation through
meditiation, it is said he cut off his eyelids to prevent himself from falling
asleep. Where the eyelids fell, the first tea plant sprung up. Bodhidharma is
often depicted in Indian art in profound meditation in a cave, or facing a blank
wall. He taught the perfection of realization from the heart in contrast to dependence
upon external ritual.
Chinese wood carving of Bodhidharma in standing posture is undoubtedly once worshipped
in Buddhist temple. His expression is sober, intense and full of radiance; he
is holding a fly whisk in his left hand, symbolizing his vow never to kill. In
his right hand he would hold the missing staff or sistrum, a shaft topped with
metal rings, to chase away poisonous snakes and insects. Time has altered the
appearance of this Ta Mo; the faded colors seem to blend into the raw wood with
the uniform tonality of age, softening the effect of a formidable presence.