Bodhidharma is considered the founder of Zen Buddhism in China. While much of his biography may be the stuff of legend and his historicity is still in question, whether or not he was ever a living person, the legend of Bodhidharma has made him as real in the Zen tradition as anyone else.
Bodhidharma was the first to introduce the specific teachings that defined the Zen school. Much of his renown comes from a famous four-line teaching attributed to him:
A special transmission outside the scriptures,
Not depending on words and letters;
Directly pointing to the mind,
Seeing into one’s true nature and attaining buddhahood.
The sumi-e painter Michael Hofmann introduced me to the drawing of Bodhidharma.