The Story of Bodhidharma
Founder of Zen and the Martial Arts
A play in two acts
LITERATURE, HISTORY, Bodhidharma
EBOOK Size: 2.19 MB; 94 pages; US$ 4
Also available as Amazon Kindle eBook
© Partap Sharma 2004
Revered in China, Okinawa and Japan as the founder of Zen and the martial arts, the Indian monk Bodhidharma was, till the writing, performance and publication of this play, almost totally forgotten in his homeland India.
Zen Katha tells the story of how Bodhidharma, born a prince in the south Indian kingdom of Kanchipuram in the fifth century, had to discover ways to excel at unarmed combat because the royal Pallavas prided themselves on their wrestling skills. The prince became a monk and travelled to China. There, his strange and somewhat eccentric behavior led to various piquant situations. He became not only the Founding Patriarch of Zen but also the first peaceful fighting monk. As Chief Abbot of the Monastery of Shaolin, he initiated the tradition that now makes it unique.
Aldous Huxley has said of the martial arts devised by Bodhidharma: “Movements intrinsically beautiful and at the same time charged with symbolic meaning. The whole body transformed into a hieroglyphic, a succession of hieroglyphics, of attitudes modulating from significance to significance like a poem or a piece of music. Movements of the muscles representing movements of consciousness. It’s meditation in action.”
Cover Painting: Li Zhi Shaolin-se
The play was first produced by the Primetime Theatre Company and directed by Lillete Dubey. It opened on 15 August 2004 at the Sophia Bhabha Hall, Mumbai. Subsequently, the production travelled to other cities including Pune, Delhi, Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Dubai, Singapore and Hongkong.
“…brilliant playwright Partap Sharma. A prominent fan of his work was the (Nobel) prize-winning African writer, Wole Soyinka!” Saeed Jaffrey in An Actor’s Journey
“….discovered his own voice. It is not the voice of Arthur Miller or John Osborne. It is Partap Sharma.” Alyque Padamsee in A Double Life
“…a very considerable writer.” Walter Allen in The Listener
“Just wanted to let you know that one Mr. Robert Smith who works at the British High Commission was raving about Zen Katha. He thought the play should be staged at the West End and should be made into a movie (hint hint). He thought it was absolutely fabulous!” Music composer Mahesh Tinaikar in an email to director Lillete Dubey
“Once in a blue moon comes along a play that is so beautiful, so mesmerizing that it warrants a second look on the very next day. We saw Zen Katha twice in two days and felt enriched and uplifted both the times. It is certainly the best play of the year. Everything works perfectly.” Ruby Lilaowala in Afternoon Despatch and Courier (Mumbai)
“Zen Katha is a play that tells an extraordinary man’s tale… culminating with his discovery of an alternative way of being.” Mumbai Theatre Guide
“The play is just superb. It is spiritual, intellectual and an emotionally stirring experience. You come out walking tall…..” Zend M. Zend On-line review
“Zen-ith of beauty and simplicity.” Shana Maria Verghis in The Pioneer (Delhi)
“Sterling performances…..subtle humour. The dialogues are crisp and intertwined with Zen philosophy, like ‘ Empty the mind, but mind the empty’ or ‘ See rest in motion and motion in rest.’” Dr. P. V. Vaidyanathan in Life Positive
“Vibrant and dynamic. Breathtaking martial arts.” The Times of India
“Fascinating story.” Mid-day (Mumbai)
“A memorable experience for viewers.” The Tribune (Chandigarh)
PARTAP SHARMA is a playwright, novelist [Days of the Turban] and author of four books for children. His best known plays, A Touch of Brightness, Begum Sumroo, Sammy! and Zen Katha, have been staged in various countries. His books have been published in India, England, USA, France, Denmark, Holland and Canada. As an actor, he has played the lead in five Hindi feature films and won the National Award in 1971 for his performance in Phir Bhi. He has also played the role of Nehru in the film Nehru: Jewel of India. In the year 2003, he spent three months in China to take part, again as Nehru, in an international film titled Chou-en-lai in Bandung. He has directed a number of documentary films, including a historical series for Channel Four Television, London, titled The Raj Though Indian Eyes. England's Museum of the British Empire & Commonwealth, in Bristol, now has a permanent section devoted to film clips and interviews titled The Partap Sharma Archive on the British Raj. His voice is well-known to cinema, TV and radio audiences as he is one of India's foremost commentators and narrators.