Contributed by Leanne Guenther
In Japan, when someone has a goal or task they wish to complete, they purchase a red Dharma doll that comes without pupils painted on the eyes. At the beginning of the task one pupil is colored in, and upon completion, the other pupil is painted.
Dharma Daishi ( Daruma Daishi in Japanese) was from India and is credited for reviving Hinduism in China and as being the founder of martial arts. Dharma created an exercise routine for the monks of the Shaolin Temple that would strengthen the body and be useful in self-defense. The meditation required of the monks was physically draining and the "Kung Fu" training developed by Dharma helped make the monks physically strong enough. Dharma taught that martial arts should be used for self-defense, and never to hurt or injure needlessly -- it is one of the oldest Shaolin sayings that “one who engages in combat has already lost the battle.”
Dharma Daishi was a very devoted Buddhist who took his studies and meditation
very seriously. Legend says that Dharma meditated for so long that his
arms and legs fell off. Legend also says that he cut off his eyelids to
prevent himself from falling asleep during his meditation. On the place
where his eyelids fell, the first Chinese tea plant grew -- Chinese tea
continues to be used by monks to prevent themselves from sleeping during
meditation. The armless and legless shape of the Dharma doll reflects
these stories. Dharma dolls that one purchases at the store are weighted
at the bottom so if they are knocked over they will pop back up again
(reflecting perseverance in life). The word Daruma means "Although it falls over, it always rises".