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Great Monks
History records the names of several great Buddhists of Kanchipuram who spread the Dhamma all over the world.
buddha temple in kanchipuram
 
Bodhidharma
Bodhidharma (Tamil: போதிதர்மன்) was a Buddhist monk who lived during the 5th/6th century and is traditionally credited as the leading patriarch and transmitter of Zen (Chinese: Chán, Sanskrit: Dhyāna) to China. According to Chinese legend, he also began the physical training of the Shaolin monks that led to the creation of Shaolinquan. However, martial arts historians have shown this legend stems from a 17th century qigong manual known as the Yijin Jing.

Little contemporary biographical information on Bodhidharma is extant, and subsequent accounts became layered with legend, but most accounts agree that he was a Tamil prince from southern India’s Pallava Empire. Scholars have concluded his place of birth to be Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu .

After becoming a Buddhist monk, Bodhidharma traveled to China. The accounts differ on the date of his arrival, with one early account claiming that he arrived during the Liú Sòng Dynasty (420–479) and later accounts dating his arrival to the Liáng Dynasty (502–557). Bodhidharma was primarily active in the lands of the Northern Wèi Dynasty (386–534). Modern scholarship dates him to about the early 5th century.

Throughout Buddhist art, Bodhidharma is depicted as a rather ill-tempered, profusely bearded and wide-eyed barbarian. He is described as “The Blue-Eyed Barbarian” in Chinese texts.
 
 
The Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall (952) identifies Bodhidharma as the 28th Patriarch of Buddhism in an uninterrupted line that extends all the way back to the Buddha himself. D.T. Suzuki contends that Chán’s growth in popularity during the 7th and 8th centuries attracted criticism that it had “no authorized records of its direct transmission from the founder of Buddhism” and that Chán historians made Bodhidharma the 28th patriarch of Buddhism in response to such attacks.
 
Manimegalai - (மணிமேகலை காப்பியம்)

Significant parts of Manimekalai, a Buddhist epic from the later Sangam age, take place in Kanchipuram. Manimekalai is a dancer who later becomes a nun. She obtains the Amuda Surabhi (nectar vessel), which produces food without end. This she uses for performing charity. In the course of her travels, she is directed by her grandfather, Masattuvan, to go to Kanchi, as the city had been devastated by a drought. When she goes there, she finds a temple to Buddha at the very centre of the city:

With her heart full of compassion, the maid
Went around the fort rightwards, and got down
Into the central part of the city.
She prayed at the temple built by the king’s brother
To Buddha, who had sat under the Bodhi tree
Which had golden branches
And fresh green leaves rivaling emerald.

The king builds a garden in honor of Manimekalai’s coming to help his people. Delighted, Manimekalai makes him build a lotus seat for Buddha. She then places the Amuda Surabhi on the lotus seat and welcomes all living beings to gather to be fed. It is an unforgettable scene in which all the marginalized, the hungry, the defeated, and the maimed come to her for succour:

Like life-giving sustenance for those who ate,
Like the result of giving alms to ascetics,
Like the yield when the seed is sown with thought
To water, earth, season, and work in the fields,
Like rains that fall to help the earth’s yield,
Was the maid compared and thanked by people
Whose hunger-sickness had been cured by her.

She then meets her spiritual teacher, Aravana Adikal, who instructs her in Dharma. Her mind illumined, Manimekalai dedicates herself to the ideal life that leads to salvation.

 
Last Words

The Buddha tirelessly traveled and taught until his death at age 80. His last words to his followers:

"Behold, O monks, this is my last advice to you. All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation."

 
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