BuddhistRoad Paper 3.1 "Bodhidharma, Meditation, and Medicine: On the Message of a Fragmented Buddhist Medical Text from Dunhuang"


Henrik H. Sørensen


The present essay is devoted to a discussion and analysis of Dunhuang (敦煌) manuscript P. 3181 which features a meditation text attributed to the Buddhist saint and Chan Buddhist (Chin. chanzong 禪宗) patriarch Bodhidharma (d. c. 530). It is noteworthy because it represents a stage in the development of Chinese Buddhism in which local practitioners of meditation became increasingly influenced by Daoist beliefs and practices. As such, the manuscript under discussion documents the conflation of Chan Buddhism, Buddhist meditation generally conceived, and Daoist practices for the circulation of vital energy of the kind one later encounters in the tradition of internal alchemy (Chin. neidan 內丹). In the course of this presentation, the focus will be on Dunhuang, and how medical beliefs and practices, many of which derived from Daoism, were incorporated into the various systems of belief and practice of local Buddhism.



January 31, 2023

Details about this monograph