In Japan, lucky charms, talismans and mojos are an essential part of everyday life. All of them are bound to bring the owner good luck and keep away misfortune; we could write another post every week for the rest of our lives if we wanted to, and we still wouldn’t run outof them or get bored, as each has their own unique story. However, not one of them is as extreme as the historical and legendary figure whom the Daruma dolls were modelled after.

Who…?

Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk in the 5-6 century (AD). He wasn’t originally from China; he most probably came from India. He is thought to have brought the study of Zen philosophy to China and he became known in Japan due to the Chinese influence on Japanese culture. There are few cold facts about his life, but legends and stories abound. From these accounts an ill-tempered, wild eyed man with a big beard emerges. According to one of these stories,  Bodhidharma had been meditating for nine (9!) entire years, when he woke up only to see that his legs had fallen off due to atrophy. In his rage, he cut off his eyelids so that he would never fall asleep again. It’s safe to say that he lost his patience easily! Legend has it that he was the one who started the habit of physical exercise in Shaolin temples, because out-of-shape monks were something that he could simply not put up with.

Good luck with your silk!

Daruma dolls as luck-bringing talismans emerged in the 18th century, in the Gunma Prefecture north of Tokyo. The city of Takasaki had been producing silk for centuries and the making of silk is something that requires an extra amount of luck. For this reason, the monks of the Daruma temples of the area were always requested to come up with more and more Bodhidharma charms by the local silk makers. One day, the ninth monk, Togaku had an idea: why couldn’t the peasants make their own amulets? So they fabricated wooden molds which the people could use at home to create papier maché charms in the shape of Bodhidharma. Thus the lucky charm of the tiny, bearded man with wild eyes and a red robe was born and has been bringing the Japanese luck for centuries.

A bit later Daruma became a roly-poly figure to symbolize the resilience we need in our daily lives to get up and carry on despite hardships. And this is just the attitude that will bring us our well-deserved luck!

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