Bodhidharma (440 - 534 CE) played a seminal role in the transmission of Zen Buddhism from India to China (where it is known as Chan). Zen Buddhists consider him the twenty-eighth Patriarch, and he is credited as the founder of Shaolin martial arts.
His teachings point to a direct experience of buddha-nature rather than an intellectual understanding of it (a characteristic sadly lacking in modern teachings). Bodhidharma was known for his terse style that infuriated the Emperor Wu of Liang. Bodhidharma exemplifies hard work, discipline, and determination on the path to spiritual realization. Concrete details about Bodhidharma's life are hard to find since many stories about him are filled with mythical elements that have significant meaning for Zen Buddhists. He was probably born to an upper-class family in India, and—like the Buddha—left his social status to follow Mahayana Buddhism under Prajnatara. He left India to restore Buddhism in China.