by Morley Evans
with thanks to Wikipedia
In the Song of Enlightenment (證道歌 Zhèngdào gē) of Yǒngjiā Xuánjué (665–713)—one of the chief disciples of Huìnéng, the 6th patriarch of Chán Buddhism—it is written that Bodhidharma was the 28th patriarch in a line of descent from Mahākāśyapa, a disciple of Śākyamuni Buddha, and the first patriarch of Chán Buddhism:
Mahākāśyapa was the first, leading the line of transmission; Twenty-eight Fathers followed him in the West; The Lamp was then brought over the sea to this country; And Bodhidharma became the First Father here: His mantle, as we all know, passed over six Fathers, And by them many minds came to see the Light.
Often attributed to Bodhidharma is the Bloodstream Sermon, which was actually composed quite some time after his death.
Buddhas don't save buddhas. If you use your mind to look for a buddha, you won't see the Buddha. As long as you look for a buddha somewhere else, you'll never see that your own mind is the Buddha. Don't use a buddha to worship a buddha. And don't use the mind to invoke a buddha. Buddhas don't recite sutras. Buddhas don't keep precepts. And buddhas don't break precepts. Buddhas don't keep or break anything. Buddhas don't do good or evil. To find a buddha, you have to see your nature.
Another famous legend involving Bodhidharma is his meeting with Emperor Wu of Liang. Emperor Wu took an interest in Buddhism and spent a great deal of public wealth on funding Buddhist monasteries in China. When he had heard that a great Buddhist teacher, Bodhidharma, had come to China, he sought an audience with him. When they met, Emperor Wu had asked how much karmic merit he had gained from his noble support of Buddhism. Bodhidharma replied, "None at all." The Emperor asked, "Then what is the truth of the teachings?" Bodhidharma replied, "Vast emptiness, nothing holy." So the emperor asked, "Then who are you standing in front of me?" Bodhidharma replied, "I do not know," and walked out.
Another legend involving Bodhidharma is that he visited the Shaolin Temple in the kingdom of Wei, at some point, and taught them a series of exercises which became the basis for the Shaolin martial arts.