did Bodhidharma exist?

Did the first patriarch of Chan/Zen exist (an individual regardless of attributions of texts to him)? I think older books and research articles believed that he did, but I recall seeing (not sure where) that there is now some doubt about this. Or maybe there always was. Anyway, is there some “straight dope” on this or can somebody summarize any evidence for or against?

How can one ever know? AFAIK, there’s no documentation from back then.

Certainly the more outrageous stories told about him can’t be true. There’s quite a collection of these –

–That he meditated in a cave cso long that his legs atrophied

– That he found himself falling asleep, so he cut off his eyelids, which became the tea plant.
The little “ggod luck/wishing” doll in Japan, the Daruma doll, is named after him – “Daruma” is short for “Bodaidaruma”, Japanese for “Bodhidarma”, and the doll, like the legends, has no feet and no eyelids. I suspect that the doll predates the legend, and that the legend shoehorned a historical chacter into it. Large Daruma dolls are used as scarecrows in rice fields.

Maybe he was diabetic.


The nightingale singing in the garden.