Zen


Zen
Zen
Chinese: Traditional:
Simplified:
Pinyin: Chán
Japanese: Kanji:
Romaji: Zen
Korean: Hangul:
RR: Seon
Vietnamese: Thiền
Sanskrit: dhyāna
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Part of a series on
Zen
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The Five Houses
Caodong / Sōtō
Linji / Rinzai
Fayan / Hōgen
Guiyang / Igyō
Yunmen / Unmon
Doctrine and practice
Buddha-nature
Enlightenment
Sitting meditation
Group meditation
Dharma transmission
Kōan practice
Samādhi
Principal texts
Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra
Diamond Sūtra
Heart Sūtra
Śūraṅgama Sūtra
Platform Sūtra
Kōan collections
Mahāyāna Buddhism
Outline of Buddhism
(Category)
view · Mahāyāna Buddhism founded by the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma. The word Zen is from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word Chán (禪), which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be approximately translated as "meditation" or "meditative state."

Zen emphasizes experiential wisdom in the attainment of enlightenment. As such, it de-emphasizes theoretical knowledge in favor of direct self-realization through meditation and dharma practice. The teachings of Zen include various sources of Mahāyāna thought, including the Prajñāpāramitā literature, Madhyamaka, Yogācāra and the Tathāgatagarbha Sutras.

The emergence of Zen as a distinct school of Buddhism was first documented in China in the 7th century CE. From China, Zen spread south to Vietnam, and east to Korea and Japan. As a matter of tradition, the establishment of Zen is credited to the South Indian Pallava prince-turned-monk Bodhidharma, who came to China during the rise of Tamil Buddhism in Tamilakam to teach a "special transmission outside scriptures, not founded on words or letters."

It both is and is not;
neither is, nor is not.
—Siddhartha Gautama

Contents

History

The historical records required for a complete, accurate account of early Chán history no longer exist.[1] Theories about the influence of other schools in the evolution of Chán are widely variable and rely heavily on speculative correlation rather than on written records or histories. Some scholars have argued that Chán developed from the interaction between Mahāyāna Buddhism and Taoism,[2][3] while others insist that Chán has roots in yogic practices, specifically Template:IUAST, the consideration of objects, and kasiṇa, total fixation of the mind.[4] A number of other conflicting theories exist.

Legendary Transmission: Kasyappa and The Flower Sermon

The origins of Zen Buddhism are ascribed to the Flower Sermon, the earliest source for which comes from the 14th century.[4] It is said that Gautama Buddha gathered his disciples one day for a Dharma talk. When they gathered together, the Buddha was completely silent and some speculated that perhaps the Buddha was tired or ill. The Buddha silently held up and twirled a flower and twinkled his eyes; several of his disciples tried to interpret what this meant, though none of them were correct. One of the Buddha's disciples, Mahākāśyapa, silently gazed at the flower and broke into a broad smile. The Buddha then acknowledged Mahākāśyapa's insight by saying the following:[4]

I possess the true Dharma eye, the marvelous mind of Nirvāṇa, the true form of the formless, the subtle Dharma gate that does not rest on words or letters but is a special transmission outside of the scriptures. This I entrust to Mahākāśyapa.

Thus, through Zen there developed a way which concentrated on direct experience rather than on rational creeds or revealed scriptures. Wisdom was passed, not through words or concepts, but through a lineage of one-to-one direct transmission of experience from teacher to student. It is commonly taught that such a lineage has continued all the way from the Buddha's time to the present.[citation needed]

Bodhidharma

Bodhidharma. Woodcut print by Yoshitoshi, 1887.
Bodhidharma with Huike. Painting by Sesshū Tōyō, 15th century.

The establishment of Chán is traditionally credited to the Tamil prince-turned-monk Bodhidharma (formerly dated ca. 500 CE, but now ca. early 5th century[5]), who is recorded as having come to China to teach a "special transmission outside scriptures" which "did not stand upon words".

Bodhidharma is associated with several other names, and is also known by the name Bodhitara. He was given the name Bodhidharma by his teacher known variously as Panyatara, Prajnatara, or Prajñādhara.[6] He is said to have been the son of a southern Indian Pallava king, and with the rise of Tamil Buddhism on the continent, utilized the Kanchipuram port of his residence in Tamilakam to reach China at a time when the two nations enjoyed strong trade with one another.

Bodhidharma arrived in China and visited Canton and Luoyang. In Luoyang, he is reputed to have engaged in nine years of silent meditation, coming to be known as "the wall-gazing Brahman".[6] This epithet is referring to him as an Indian holy man.

Several scholars have suggested that Bodhidharma as a person never actually existed, but was a combination of various historical figures over several centuries.[7]

In the Song of Enlightenment (證道歌 Zhèngdào gē) of Yǒngjiā Xuánjué (永嘉玄覺, 665–713)[8]—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.[9]

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.[10]

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 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 am nothing," 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.[7]

Ancestral Founders and lineage: the first six patriarchs

Sojiji Temple, of the Soto Zen school, Tsurumi-ku, Yokohama, Japan

Bodhidharma settled in the kingdom of Wei. Shortly before his death, Bodhidharma appointed a disciple named Huike to succeed him, making Huike the first Chinese-born ancestral founder and the second ancestral founder of Chán in China. Bodhidharma is said to have passed three items to Huike as a sign of transmission of the Dharma: a robe, a bowl, and a copy of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra. The transmission then passed to the second ancestral founder Huike, the third Sengcan, the fourth ancestral founder Daoxin, and the fifth ancestral founder Hongren.

According to tradition, the sixth and last ancestral founder, Huineng (惠能; 638–713), was one of the giants of Ch'an history, and all surviving schools regard him as their ancestor. The dramatic story of Huineng's life tells that there was a controversy over his claim to the title of patriarch. After being chosen by Hongren, the fifth ancestral founder, Huineng had to flee by night to Nanhua Temple in the south to avoid the wrath of Hongren's jealous senior disciples. Modern scholarship, however, has questioned this narrative, since the only surviving records of this account were authored by members of the Southern school. Historic research reveals that this story was created to lend authority to the so-called Southern School[11]. In the middle of the 8th century, monks claiming to be among the successors to Huineng, calling themselves the Southern school, cast themselves in opposition to those claiming to succeed Hongren's then publicly recognized student Shenxiu (神秀; ?-706). It is commonly held that it is at this point — that is, the debates between these rival factions — that Ch'an enters the realm of fully documented history.

Aside from disagreements over the valid lineage, doctrinally the Southern school is associated with the teaching that enlightenment is sudden, while the Northern School is associated with the teaching that enlightenment is gradual. The Southern school eventually became predominant and their Northern school rivals died out.

The following are the six ancestral founders of Chán in China as listed in traditional sources:

  1. Bodhidharma (達摩) ca. 440 – ca. 528
  2. Huike (慧可) 487–593
  3. Sengcan (僧燦) ?–606
  4. Daoxin (道信) 580–651
  5. Hongren (弘忍) 601–674
  6. Huineng (慧能) 638–713

Tang-dynasty (618-907)

A traditional Chinese Chán Buddhist master in Taiwan, sitting in meditation.

In the centuries following the introduction of Buddhism to China, Chán (禪) grew to become the largest sect in Chinese Buddhism, and produced the largest body of literature in Chinese history of any sect or tradition. The teachers claiming Huineng's posterity began to branch off into numerous different schools, each with their own special emphasis, but all of which kept the same basic focus on meditation practice, personal instruction, and personal experience. The proliferation of the Chán school during this time in the Tang Dynasty is described in a famous saying:[12]

"Look at the territory of the house of Tang —
The whole of it is the realm of the Chán school."

During the late Tang and the Song periods, the tradition continued, as a wide number of eminent teachers, such as Mazu, Shitou, Baizhang, Huangbo, Linji, and Yunmen developed specialized teaching methods, which would variously become characteristic of the Five Houses of Chán.

The Five Houses of Zen

Developing primarily in the Tang dynasty in China, Classic Zen is traditionally divided historically into the Five Houses (Ch. 五家) of Zen or five "schools". These were not originally regarded as "schools" or "sects", but historically, they have come to be understood that way. In their early history, the schools were not institutionalized, they were without dogma, and the teachers who founded them were not idolized.

The Five Houses of Zen are:[1]

  • Guiyang school (潙仰宗), named after masters Guishan Lingyou (771–854) and Yangshan Huiji (813–890)
  • Linji school (臨濟宗), named after master Linji Yixuan (died 866)
  • Caodong school (曹洞宗), named after masters Dongshan Liangjie (807–869) and Caoshan Benji (840–901)
  • Yunmen school (雲門宗), named after master Yunmen Wenyan (died 949)
  • Fayan school (法眼宗), named after master Fayan Wenyi (885–958)

Most Zen lineages throughout Asia and the rest of the world originally grew from or were heavily influenced by the original five houses of Zen. This list does not include earlier schools such as the Hongzhou school (洪州宗) of Mazu.

Sinification of buddhism in China

It was scholar D.T. Suzuki's contention that a spiritual awakening was always the goal of Chán's training, but that part of what distinguished the tradition as it developed through the centuries in China was a way of life radically different from that of Indian Buddhists. In Indian Buddhism, the tradition of the mendicant prevailed, but Suzuki explained that in China social circumstances led to the development of a temple and training-center system in which the abbot and the monks all performed mundane tasks. These included food gardening or farming, carpentry, architecture, housekeeping, administration (or community direction), and the practice of Traditional Chinese medicine. Consequently, the enlightenment sought in Chán had to stand up well to the demands and potential frustrations of everyday life.[13][14]

Song-dynasty (960-1297)

Over the course of Song Dynasty (960–1279), the Guiyang, Fayan, and Yunmen schools were gradually absorbed into the Linji. During the same period, the various developments of Chán teaching methods crystallized into the gōng'àn (koan) practice which is unique to this school of Buddhism. According to Miura and Sasaki, "[I]t was during the lifetime of Yüan-wu's successor, Dahui Zonggao (大慧宗杲; 1089–1163) that Koan Zen entered its determinative stage."[15] Gōng'àn practice was prevalent in the Linji school, to which Yuanwu and Dahui belonged, but it was also employed on a more limited basis by the Caodong school. The teaching styles and words of the classical masters were collected in such important texts as the Blue Cliff Record (1125) of Yuanwu, The Gateless Gate (1228) of Wumen, both of the Linji lineage, and the Book of Equanimity (1223) of Wansong, of the Caodong lineage. These texts record classic gōng'àn cases, together with verse and prose commentaries, which would be studied by later generations of students down to the present.

Chán continued to be influential as a religious force in China, and thrived in the post-Song period, with a vast body of texts being produced up and through the modern period. While traditionally distinct, Chán was taught alongside Pure Land Buddhism in many Chinese Buddhist monasteries. In time much of the distinction between them was lost, and many masters taught both Chán and Pure Land.

Ming-dynasty

Chán Buddhism enjoyed something of a revival in the Ming Dynasty with teachers such as Hanshan Deqing (憨山德清), who wrote and taught extensively on both Chán and Pure Land Buddhism; Miyun Yuanwu (密雲圓悟), who came to be seen posthumously as the first patriarch of the Ōbaku Zen school; as well as Yunqi Zhuhong (雲棲祩宏) and Ouyi Zhixu (蕅益智旭).

Modern times

After further centuries of decline, Chán was revived again in the early 20th century by Hsu Yun (虛雲), a well-known figure of 20th century Chinese Buddhism. Many Chán teachers today trace their lineage back to Hsu Yun, including Sheng-yen (聖嚴) and Hsuan Hua (宣化), who have propagated Chán in the West where it has grown steadily through the 20th and 21st century.

Chán was repressed in China during the recent modern era in the early periods of the People's Republic, but has more recently been re-asserting itself on the mainland, and has a significant following in Taiwan and Hong Kong as well as among Overseas Chinese. [16]

Spread of Ch'an-buddhism in Asia

Thiền in Vietnam

Thiền monks performing a service in Huế.

Thiền Buddhism (禪宗 Thiền Tông) is the Vietnamese name for the school of Zen Buddhism. Thiền is ultimately derived from the Chinese Chán Zōng (禪宗).

According to traditional accounts of Vietnam, in 580, an Indian monk named Vinitaruci (Vietnamese: Tì-ni-đa-lưu-chi) traveled to Vietnam after completing his studies with Sengcan, the third patriarch of Chinese Chán. This, then, would be the first appearance of Vietnamese Thiền Buddhism. The sect that Vinitaruci and his lone Vietnamese disciple founded would become known as the oldest branch of Thiền. After a period of obscurity, the Vinitaruci School became one of the most influential Buddhist groups in Vietnam by the 10th century, particularly so under the patriarch Vạn-Hạnh (died 1018).

Other early Vietnamese Zen schools included the Vô Ngôn Thông, which was associated with the teaching of Mazu, and the Thảo Đường, which incorporated nianfo chanting techniques; both were founded by Chinese monks. A new school was founded by one of Vietnam's religious kings; this was the Trúc Lâm school, which evinced a deep influence from Confucian and Taoist philosophy. Nevertheless, Trúc Lâm's prestige waned over the following centuries as Confucianism became dominant in the royal court. In the 17th century, a group of Chinese monks led by Nguyên Thiều established a vigorous new school, the Lâm Tế, which is the Vietnamese pronunciation of Linji. A more domesticated offshoot of Lâm Tế, the Liễu Quán school, was founded in the 18th century and has since been the predominant branch of Vietnamese Thiền.

Zen master Thích Thanh Từ is credit for renovating Thien Trúc Lâm in Việt Nam. He is one of the most prominent and influential figure of Viet Nam zen masters currently alive. He was a disciple of Master Thích Thiện Hoa.

The most famous practitioner of syncretized Thiền Buddhism in the West is Thích Nhất Hạnh who has authored dozens of books and founded Dharma center Plum Village in France together with his colleague Chan Khong, Bhikkhuni and Zen Master.

Seon in Korea

Seon monk in Seoul, South Korea

Seon was gradually transmitted into Korea during the late Silla period (7th through 9th centuries) as Korean monks of predominantly Hwaeom (華嚴) and Consciousness-only (唯識) background began to travel to China to learn the newly developing tradition. During his lifetime, Mazu had begun to attract students from Korea; by tradition, the first Korean to study Seon was named Peomnang (法朗). Mazu's successors had numerous Korean students, some of whom returned to Korea and established the nine mountain (九山) schools. This was the beginning of Chán in Korea which is called Seon.

Seon received its most significant impetus and consolidation from the Goryeo monk Jinul (知訥) (1158–1210), who established a reform movement and introduced koan practice to Korea. Jinul established the Songgwangsa (松廣寺) as a new center of pure practice. It was during the time of Jinul the Jogye Order, a primarily Seon sect, became the predominant form of Korean Buddhism, a status it still holds. which survives down to the present in basically the same status. Toward the end of the Goryeo and during the Joseon period the Jogye Order would first be combined with the scholarly 教 schools, and then be relegated to lesser influence in ruling class circles by Confucian influenced polity, even as it retained strength outside the cities, among the rural populations and ascetic monks in mountain refuges.

Nevertheless, there would be a series of important Seon teachers during the next several centuries, such as Hyegeun (慧勤), Taego (太古), Gihwa (己和) and Hyujeong (休靜), who continued to develop the basic mold of Korean meditational Buddhism established by Jinul. Seon continues to be practiced in Korea today at a number of major monastic centers, as well as being taught at Dongguk University, which has a major of studies in this religion. Taego Bou (1301–1382) studied in China with Linji teacher and returned to unite the Nine Mountain Schools. In modern Korea, by far the largest Buddhist denomination is the Jogye Order, which is essentially a Zen sect; the name Jogye is the Korean equivalent of Caoxi (曹溪), another name for Huineng.

Seon is known for its stress on meditation, monasticism, and asceticism. Many Korean monks have few personal possessions and sometimes cut off all relations with the outside world. Several are near mendicants traveling from temple to temple practicing meditation. The hermit-recluse life is prevalent among monks to whom meditation practice is considered of paramount importance.

Currently, Korean Buddhism is in a state of slow transition. While the reigning theory behind Korean Buddhism was based on Jinul's "sudden enlightenment, gradual cultivation", the modern Korean Seon master, Seongcheol's revival of Hui Neng's "sudden enlightenment, sudden cultivation" has had a strong impact on Korean Buddhism. Although there is resistance to change within the ranks of the Jogye order, with the last three Supreme Patriarchs' stance that is in accordance with Seongcheol, there has been a gradual change in the atmosphere of Korean Buddhism.

The Kwan Um School of Zen, one of the largest Zen schools in the West, teaches a form of Seon Buddhism. Soeng Hyang Soen Sa Nim (b. 1948), birth name Barbara Trexler (later Barbara Rhodes), is Guiding Dharma Teacher of the international Kwan Um School of Zen and a successor of the late Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim.

Zen in Japan

The schools of Zen that currently exist in Japan are the Sōtō (曹洞), Rinzai (臨済), and Ōbaku (黃檗). Of these, Sōtō is the largest and Ōbaku the smallest. Rinzai is itself divided into several subschools based on temple affiliation, including Myoshin-ji, Nanzen-ji, Tenryū-ji, Daitoku-ji, and Tofuku-ji.

Zen was not introduced as a separate school until the 12th century, when Myōan Eisai traveled to China and returned to establish a Linji lineage, which is known in Japan as Rinzai. Decades later, Nanpo Shōmyō (南浦紹明?) (1235–1308) also studied Linji teachings in China before founding the Japanese Otokan lineage, the most influential branch of Rinzai. In 1215, Dōgen, a younger contemporary of Eisai's, journeyed to China himself, where he became a disciple of the Caodong master Tiantong Rujing. After his return, Dōgen established the Sōtō school, the Japanese branch of Caodong. The Ōbaku lineage was introduced in the 17th century by Ingen, a Chinese monk. Ingen had been a member of the Linji school, the Chinese equivalent of Rinzai, which had developed separately from the Japanese branch for hundreds of years. Thus, when Ingen journeyed to Japan following the fall of the Ming Dynasty to the Manchus, his teachings were seen as a separate school. The Ōbaku school was named for Mount Ōbaku (Ch. 黄檗山; Huángbò Shān), which had been Ingen's home in China.

In the year 1410 a Zen Buddhist monk from Nanzen-ji, a large temple complex in the Japanese capital of Kyoto, wrote out a landscape poem and had a painting done of the scene described by the poem. Then, following the prevailing custom of his day, he gathered responses to the images by asking prominent fellow monks and government officials to inscribe it, thereby creating a shigajiku poem and painting scroll. Such scrolls emerged as a preeminent form of elite Japanese culture in the last two decades of the fourteenth century, a golden age in the phenomenon now known as Japanese Zen culture.[17]

"The Unfettered Mind", a treatise on the art of the sword written by Takuan Sōhō (1573-1645), has historically influenced the development of martial arts in its philosophical and spiritual aspects. [18]

Internal criticism

Some contemporary Japanese Zen teachers, such as Daiun Harada and Shunryu Suzuki, have criticized Japanese Zen as being a formalized system of empty rituals in which very few Zen practitioners ever actually attained realization. They assert that almost all Japanese temples have become family businesses handed down from father to son, and the Zen priest's function has largely been reduced to officiating at funerals, a practice sarcastically referred to in Japan as sōshiki bukkyō (葬式仏教?, funeral Buddhism). Along these lines, the Sōtō school published statistics stating that 80 percent of laity visited temples only for reasons having to do with funerals and death.[19]

Contemporary criticism: Zen at War

The Japanese Zen establishment — including the Sōtō sect, the major branches of Rinzai, and several renowned teachers — has also been criticized for its involvement in Japanese militarism and nationalism during World War II and the preceding period. A notable work on this subject was Zen at War (1998) by Brian Victoria, an American-born Sōtō priest. One of his findings was that some Zen masters known for their post-war internationalism and promotion of "world peace" were open nationalists in the inter-war years.[20] Among them as an example Haku'un Yasutani, the founder of the Sanbo Kyodan School, even voiced anti-semitic and nationalistic opinions after World War II.[21]
This involvement was not limited to the Zen schools, as all orthodox Japanese schools of Buddhism supported the militarist state.

Zen teachings

Lands
India • China • Japan
Vietnam • Korea
Singapore • Taiwan
Tibet • Bhutan • Nepal
Mongolia • United States 
Doctrine
Bodhisattva • Śīla
Samādhi • Prajñā
Śunyatā • Trikāya
Mahāyāna Sūtras
Prajñāpāramitā Sūtras
Lotus Sūtra
Nirvāṇa Sūtra
Saṃdhinirmocana Sūtra
Avataṃsaka Sūtra
Śūraṅgama Sūtra
Mahāyāna Schools
Mādhyamaka
Yogācāra
Esoteric Buddhism
Pure Land • Zen
Tiantai • Nichiren
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Zen asserts, as do other schools in Mahāyāna Buddhism, that all sentient beings have Buddha-nature (Skt. Buddhadhātu, Tathāgatagarbha), the universal nature of transcendent wisdom (Skt. prajñā), and emphasizes that Buddha-nature is nothing other than the essential nature of the mind itself. The aim of Zen practice is to discover this Buddha-nature within each person, through meditation and practice of the Buddha's teachings. The ultimate goal of this is to become a Completely Enlightened Buddha (Skt. Samyak­saṃbuddha). As a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism, Zen draws many of its basic driving concepts from that tradition, such as the bodhisattva ideal. Buddhas and bodhisattvas such as Amitābha, Avalokiteśvara, Mañjuśrī, Samantabhadra, and Kṣitigarbha are also venerated alongside Gautama Buddha.

The Zen tradition holds that in meditation practice, notions of doctrine and teachings necessitate the creation of various notions and appearances (Skt. saṃjñā; Ch. 相, xiāng) that obscure the transcendent wisdom of each being's Buddha-nature. This process of rediscovery goes under various terms such as "introspection", "a backward step", "turning-about" or "turning the eye inward". The importance of Zen's non-reliance on written words is often misunderstood as being against the study of Buddhist texts. However, Zen is deeply rooted in the teachings and doctrines of Mahāyāna Buddhism. What the Zen tradition emphasizes is that enlightenment of the Buddha came not through intellectual reasoning, but rather through self-realization in Dharma practice and meditation. Therefore, it is held that it is primarily through Dharma practice and meditation that others may attain enlightenment and become buddhas as well.

In its beginnings in China, Zen primarily referred to the Mahāyāna sūtras and especially to the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra. As a result, early masters of the Zen tradition were referred to as "Laṅkāvatāra masters". As the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra teaches the doctrine of the "One Vehicle" (Skt. Ekayāna), the early Zen school was sometimes referred to as the "One Vehicle School".[22] In other early texts, the school that would later become known as Zen is sometimes even referred to as simply the "Laṅkāvatāra school" (Ch. 楞伽宗, Léngqié Zōng).[23] Accounts recording the history of this early period are to be found in Records of the Laṅkāvatāra Masters (Ch. 楞伽師資記, Léngqié Shīzī Jì).

During the Tang Dynasty, the Zen school's central text shifted to the Diamond Sūtra (Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra). Thereafter, the essential texts of the Zen school were often considered to be the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra and the Diamond Sūtra.[24] However, a review of the early historical documents and literature of early Zen masters clearly reveals that they were all well-versed in numerous Mahāyāna Buddhist sūtras. For example, in the Platform Sūtra of the Sixth Patriarch, Huineng cites and explains the Diamond Sūtra, the Lotus Sūtra (Saddharma Puṇḍarīka Sūtra), the Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra, the Śūraṅgama Sūtra, and the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra.

When Buddhism came to China, there were three divisions of training: the training in virtue and discipline in the precepts (Skt. śīla), the training in mind through meditation (Skt. dhyāna) to attain deep states of meditation (Skt. samādhi), and the training in the recorded teachings (Skt. Dharma). It was in this context that Buddhism entered into Chinese culture. Three types of teachers with expertise in each training practice developed: Vinaya masters specialized in all the rules of discipline for monks and nuns, Dhyāna masters specialized in the practice of meditation, and Dharma masters specialized in mastery of the Buddhist texts. Monasteries and practice centers were created that tended to focus on either the vinaya and training of monks or the teachings focused on one scripture or a small group of texts. Dhyāna (Ch. Chán) masters tended to practice in solitary hermitages, or to be associated with Vinaya training monasteries or the Dharma teaching centers. The later naming of the Zen school has its origins in this view of the threefold division of training.

At the beginning of the Tang Dynasty, by the time of the Fifth Patriarch Hongren (601–674), the Zen school had become well established as a separate school of Buddhism.[25] Subsequently, the Zen tradition produced a rich corpus of written literature which has become a part of its practice and teaching. Among the earliest and most widely studied of the specifically Zen texts, dating back to at least the 9th century CE, is the Platform Sūtra of the Sixth Patriarch, attributed to Huineng. Others include the various collections of kōans and the Shōbōgenzō of Dōgen Zenji.

As the Zen school grew in China, the monastic discipline also became distinct, focusing on practice through all aspects of life. Temples began emphasizing labor and humility, expanding the training of Zen to include the mundane tasks of daily life. D.T. Suzuki wrote that aspects of this life are: a life of humility; a life of labor; a life of service; a life of prayer and gratitude; and a life of meditation.[26] The Chinese Chán master Baizhang (720–814 CE) left behind a famous saying which had been the guiding principle of his life, "A day without work is a day without food".[27]

Zen practice

Zen meditation

Sitting meditation

Venerable Hsuan Hua meditating in the Lotus Position. Hong Kong, 1953.

As the name Zen implies, sitting meditation is a core aspect of Zen practice. In Japanese this is called zazen, and in Chinese it is called zuòchán (坐禅), both simply meaning "sitting dhyāna". During this sitting meditation, practitioners usually assume a position such as the lotus position, half-lotus, Burmese, or seiza postures. To regulate the mind, awareness is directed towards counting or watching the breath or put in the energy center below the navel (see also anapanasati).[28] Often, a square or round cushion placed on a padded mat is used to sit on; in some other cases, a chair may be used.

In the Soto school of Zen, meditation with no objects, anchors, or content, is the primary form of practice. The meditator strives to be aware of the stream of thoughts, allowing them to arise and pass away without interference. Considerable textual, philosophical, and phenomenological justification of this practice can be found throughout Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, as for example in the "Principles of Zazen"[29] and the "Universally Recommended Instructions for Zazen".[30]

Intensive group practice

Zen traditions[which?] include periods of intensive group meditation in a monastery. While the daily routine in the monastery may require monks to meditate for several hours each day, during this intensive period they devote themselves almost exclusively to the practice of sitting meditation. The numerous 30–50 minute long meditation periods are interleaved with short rest breaks, meals, and sometimes, short periods of work should be performed with the same mindfulness; nightly sleep is kept to a minimum: 7 hours or less. In modern Buddhist practice in Japan, Taiwan, and the West, lay students often attend these intensive practice sessions, which are typically 1, 3, 5, or 7 days in length. These are held at many Zen centers, especially in commemoration of the Buddha's attainment of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi. One distinctive aspect of Zen meditation in groups is the use of a flat wooden slat used to keep meditators focused and awake.

Koan practice

Chinese character for "nothing", Chinese: (Japanese: mu). It figures in the famous Zhaozhou's dog koan

Zen Buddhists may practice koan inquiry during sitting meditation (zazen), walking meditation (kinhin), and throughout all the activities of daily life. Koan practice is particularly emphasized by the Japanese Rinzai school, but it also occurs in other schools or branches of Zen depending on the teaching line.[31]

A koan (literally "public case") is a story or dialogue, generally related to Zen or other Buddhist history; the most typical form is an anecdote involving early Chinese Zen masters. These anecdotes involving famous Zen teachers are a practical demonstration of their wisdom, and can be used to test a student's progress in Zen practice. Koans often appear to be paradoxical or linguistically meaningless dialogues or questions. But to Zen Buddhists the koan is "the place and the time and the event where truth reveals itself"[32] unobstructed by the oppositions and differentiations of language. Answering a koan requires a student to let go of conceptual thinking and of the logical way we order the world, so that like creativity in art, the appropriate insight and response arises naturally and spontaneously in the mind.

Koans and their study developed in China within the context of the open questions and answers of teaching sessions conducted by the Chinese Zen masters. Today, the Zen student's mastery of a given koan is presented to the teacher in a private interview (referred to in Japanese as dokusan (独参), daisan (代参), or sanzen (参禅)). Zen teachers advise that the problem posed by a koan is to be taken quite seriously, and to be approached as literally a matter of life and death. While there is no unique answer to a koan, practitioners are expected to demonstrate their understanding of the koan and of Zen through their responses. The teacher may approve or disapprove of the answer and guide the student in the right direction. There are also various commentaries on koans, written by experienced teachers, that can serve as a guide. These commentaries are also of great value to modern scholarship on the subject.

Koans are not "scripture" in any traditional sense. Bodhidharma said that Zen is without doctrine, "without words either written or spoken"(A Japanese miscellany, Lafcadio Hearn). Koans, like meditation, are thought of as road signs in these traditions, and not a means to enlightenment.

Chanting and liturgy

A practice in many Zen monasteries and centers is a daily liturgy service. Practitioners chant major sutras such as the Heart Sutra, chapter 25 of the Lotus Sutra (often called the "Avalokiteshvara Sutra"), the Song of the Jewel Mirror Awareness, the Great Compassionate Heart Dharani (Daihishin Dharani), and other minor mantras.

The Butsudan is the altar in a monastery where offerings are made to the images of the Buddha or Bodhisattvas. The same term is also used in Japanese homes for the altar where one prays to and communicates with deceased family members. As such, reciting liturgy in Zen can be seen as a means to connect with the Bodhisattvas of the past. Liturgy is often used during funerals, memorials, and other special events as means to invoke the aid of supernatural powers.

Chanting usually centers on major Bodhisattvas like Avalokiteshvara (see also Guan Yin) and Manjusri. According to Mahayana Buddhism, Bodhisattvas are beings who have taken vows to remain in Samsara to help all beings achieve liberation from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Since the Zen practitioner's aim is to walk the Bodhisattva path, chanting can be used as a means to connect with these beings and realize this ideal within oneself. By repeatedly chanting the Avalokiteshvara sutra (観世音菩薩普門品 Kanzeon Bosatsu Fumonbon?), for example, one instills the Bodhisattva's ideals into ones mind. The ultimate goal is given in the end of the sutra, which states, "In the morning, be one with Avalokiteshvara; in the evening, be one with Avalokiteshvara". Through the realization of emptiness and the Mahayana notion that all things have Buddha-nature, one understands that there is no difference between the cosmic bodhisattva and oneself. The wisdom and compassion of the Bodhisattva one is chanting to is seen to equal the inner wisdom and compassion of the practitioner. Thus, the duality between subject and object, practitioner and Bodhisattva, chanter and sutra is ended.

John Daido Loori justified the use of chanting sutras by referring to Zen master Dōgen.[33] Dōgen is known to have refuted the statement "Painted rice cakes will not satisfy hunger". This statement means that sutras, which are just symbols like painted rice cakes, cannot truly satisfy one's spiritual hunger. Dōgen, however, saw that there is no separation between metaphor and reality. "There is no difference between paintings, rice cakes, or any thing at all".[34] The symbol and the symbolized were inherently the same, and thus only the sutras could truly satisfy one's spiritual needs.

To understand this non-dual relationship experientially, one is told to practice liturgy intimately.[35] In distinguishing between ceremony and liturgy, Dōgen states, "In ceremony there are forms and there are sounds, there is understanding and there is believing. In liturgy there is only intimacy." The practitioner is instructed to listen to and speak liturgy not just with one sense, but with one's "whole body-and-mind". By listening with one's entire being, one eliminates the space between the self and the liturgy. Thus, Dōgen's instructions are to "listen with the eye and see with the ear". By focusing all of one's being on one specific practice, duality is transcended. Dōgen says, "Let go of the eye, and the whole body-and-mind are nothing but the eye; let go of the ear, and the whole universe is nothing but the ear." Chanting intimately thus allows one to experience a non-dual reality. The liturgy used is a tool to allow the practitioner to transcend the old conceptions of self and other. In this way, intimate liturgy practice allows one to realize emptiness (sunyata), which is at the heart of Zen Buddhist teachings.


There are other techniques common in the Zen tradition which seem unconventional and whose purpose is said to be to shock a student in order to help him or her let go of habitual activities of the mind. Some of these are common today, while others are found mostly in anecdotes. These include the loud belly shout known as katsu. It is common in many Zen traditions today for Zen teachers to have a stick with them during formal ceremonies which is a symbol of authority and which can be also used to strike on the table during a talk. The now defunct Fuke Zen sect was also well known for practicing suizen, musical meditation with the shakuhachi flute, which some Zen Buddhists today also practice.

Zen in the Western world

Although it is difficult to trace when the West first became aware of Zen as a distinct form of Buddhism, the visit of Soyen Shaku, a Japanese Zen monk, to Chicago during the World Parliament of Religions in 1893 is often pointed to as an event that enhanced its profile in the Western world. It was during the late 1950s and the early 1960s that the number of Westerners, other than the descendants of Asian immigrants, pursuing a serious interest in Zen reached a significant level.

Zen and Western culture

In Europe, the Expressionist and Dada movements in art tend to have much in common thematically with the study of koans and actual Zen. The early French surrealist René Daumal translated D.T. Suzuki as well as Sanskrit Buddhist texts.

Eugen Herrigel's book Zen in the Art of Archery (1953),[36] describing his training in the Zen-influenced martial art of Kyūdō, inspired many of the Western world's early Zen practitioners. However, many scholars, such as Yamada Shoji, are quick to criticize this book.[37]

The British philosopher Alan Watts took a close interest in Zen Buddhism and wrote and lectured extensively on it during the 1950s. He understood it as a vehicle for a mystical transformation of consciousness, and also as a historical example of a non-Western, non-Christian way of life that had fostered both the practical and fine arts.

The Dharma Bums, a novel written by Jack Kerouac and published in 1959, gave its readers a look at how a fascination with Buddhism and Zen was being absorbed into the bohemian lifestyles of a small group of American youths, primarily on the West Coast. Beside the narrator, the main character in this novel was "Japhy Ryder", a thinly veiled depiction of Gary Snyder. The story was based on actual events taking place while Snyder prepared, in California, for the formal Zen studies that he would pursue in Japanese monasteries between 1956 and 1968.[38]

Thomas Merton (1915–1968) the Catholic Trappist monk and priest[39] was internationally recognized as having one of those rare Western minds that was entirely at home in Asian experience. Like his friend, the late D.T. Suzuki, Merton believed that there must be a little of Zen in all authentic creative and spiritual experience. The dialogue between Merton and Suzuki[40] explores the many congruencies of Christian mysticism and Zen.[41][42]

Robert Kennedy (roshi), a Catholic Jesuit priest, professor, psychotherapist and Zen roshi in the White Plum lineage has written a number of books about what he labels as the benefits of Zen practice to Christianity. He was ordained a Catholic priest in Japan in 1965, and studied with Yamada Koun in Japan in the 1970s. He was installed as a Zen teacher of the White Plum Asanga lineage in 1991 and was given the title Roshi in 1997.

In 1989, the Vatican released a document which states some Catholic appreciations around the use of Zen in Christian prayer. According to the text none of the methods proposed by non-Christian religions should be rejected out of hand simply because they are not Christian.

On the contrary, one can take from them what is useful so long as the Christian conception of prayer, its logic and requirements are never obscured.[43]

Reginald Horace Blyth (1898–1964) was an Englishman who went to Japan in 1940 to further his study of Zen. He was interned during World War II and started writing in prison. He was tutor to the Crown Prince after the war. His greatest work is the 5-volume "Zen and Zen Classics", published in the 1960s. In it, he discusses Zen themes from a philosophical standpoint, often in conjunction with Christian elements in a comparative spirit. His essays include titles such as "God, Buddha, and Buddhahood" or "Zen, Sin, and Death".

While Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsig, was a 1974 bestseller, it in fact has little to do with Zen as a religious practice nor with motorcycle maintenance for that matter. Rather it deals with the notion of the metaphysics of "quality" from the point of view of the main character. Pirsig was attending the Minnesota Zen Center at the time of writing the book. He has stated that, despite its title, the book "should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice". Though it may not deal with orthodox Zen Buddhist practice, Pirsig's book in fact deals with many of the more subtle facets of Zen living and Zen mentality without drawing attention to any religion or religious organization.

A number of contemporary authors have explored the relationship between Zen and a number of other disciplines, including parenting, teaching, and leadership. This typically involves the use of Zen stories to explain leadership strategies.[44]

Western Zen lineages

Over the last fifty years mainstream forms of Zen, led by teachers who trained in East Asia and their successors, have begun to take root in the West.

Derived from Japan

In North America, the Zen lineages derived from the Japanese Soto school are the most numerous. Among these are the lineages of the San Francisco Zen Center, established by Shunryu Suzuki and the White Plum Asanga, founded by Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi. Suzuki's San Francisco Zen Center established the first Zen Monastery in America in 1967, called Tassajara in the mountains near Big Sur. Maezumi's successors have created schools including Great Plains Zen Center, founded by Susan Myoyu Andersen, Zen Mountain Monastery, founded by John Daido Loori, Great Vow Zen Monastery founded by Chozen Bays, the Zen Peacemaker Order, founded by Bernard Tetsugen Glassman, Heart Circle Sangha founded by Nicolee Jikyo McMahon and Joan Hogetsu Hoeberichts, and the Ordinary Mind school, founded by Charlotte Joko Beck. The Katagiri lineage, founded by Dainin Katagiri, has a significant presence in the Midwest. Note that both Taizan Maezumi and Dainin Katagiri served as priests at Zenshuji Soto Mission in the 1960s.

Taisen Deshimaru, a student of Kodo Sawaki, was a Soto Zen priest from Japan who taught in France. The International Zen Association, which he founded, remains influential. The American Zen Association, headquartered at the New Orleans Zen Temple, is one of the North American organizations practicing in the Deshimaru tradition.

Soyu Matsuoka served as superintendent and abbot of the Long Beach Zen Buddhist Temple and Zen Center. The Temple was headquarters to Zen Centers in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Everett, Washington. He established the Temple at Long Beach in 1971 where he resided until his passing in 1998. Matsuoka created several dharma heirs, three of whom are still alive and leading Zen Teachers within the lineage. These are: Hogaku ShoZen McGuire, Zenkai Taiun Michael Elliston Sensei, and Kaiten JohnDennis Govert. Hogaku established Daibutsuji Zen Temple in Cloudcroft and the Zen Center of Las Cruces, in Las Cruces, New Mexico. So Gozen is now the Abbot of Daibutsuji and the Zen Center of Las Cruces.[45] So Daiho Hilbert left Daibutsuji to establish the Order of Clear Mind Zen, a socially engaged sangha in New Mexico.[46] Taiun Elliston Sensei established the Atlanta Soto Zen Center and is working to establish an order honoring Matsuoka.

The Sanbo Kyodan is a Japan-based reformist Zen group, founded in 1954 by Yasutani Hakuun, which has had a significant influence on Zen in the West. Sanbo Kyodan Zen is based primarily on the Soto tradition, but also incorporates Rinzai-style koan practice. Yasutani's approach to Zen first became prominent in the English-speaking world through Philip Kapleau's book The Three Pillars of Zen (1965), which was one of the first books to introduce Western audiences to Zen as a practice rather than simply a philosophy. Among the Zen groups in North America, Hawaii, Europe, and New Zealand which derive from Sanbo Kyodan are those associated with Kapleau, Robert Aitken, and John Tarrant.

In the UK, Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey was founded as a sister monastery to Shasta Abbey in California by Master Reverend Jiyu Kennett Roshi and has a number of dispersed Priories and centres.[citation needed] Jiyu Kennett, an English woman, was ordained as a priest and Zen master in Shoji-ji, one of the two main Soto Zen temples in Japan (her book The Wild White Goose describes her experiences in Japan). The Order is called the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives.[citation needed] The lineage of Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi Roshi is represented by the White Plum Sangha UK, while Taisen Deshimaru Roshi's lineage is known in the UK as IZAUK (Intl Zen Assoc. UK).[citation needed] The Zen Centre in London is connected to the Buddhist Society. The Western Chan Fellowship is an association of lay Chán practitioners based in the UK.[citation needed] They are registered as a charity in England and Wales, but also have contacts in Europe, principally in Norway, Poland, Germany, Croatia, Switzerland and the USA.

There are also a number of Rinzai Zen centers in the West. In North America, some of the more prominent include Rinzai-ji founded by Kyozan Joshu Sasaki Roshi in California, Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-ji established by Eido Shimano Roshi and Soen Nakagawa Roshi in New York, Chozen-ji founded by Omori Sogen Roshi in Hawaii, Daiyuzenji founded by Dogen Hosokawa Roshi (a student of Omori Sogen Roshi) in Chicago, Illinois, and Chobo-Ji founded by Genki Takabayshi Roshi in Seattle, Washington. In Europe there is Egely Monastery established by a Dharma Heir of Eido Shimano, Denko Mortensen.

Derived from China

Covering over 480 acres of land and located in Talmage, California, the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas was founded by Hsuan Hua.

The first Chinese master to teach Westerners in North America was Hsuan Hua, who taught Chán and other traditions of Chinese Buddhism in San Francisco during the early 1960s. He went on to found the City Of Ten Thousand Buddhas, a monastery and retreat center located on a 237 acre (959,000 m²) property near Ukiah, California. Another Chinese Chán teacher with a Western following is Sheng-yen, a master trained in both the Caodong and Linji schools. He first visited the United States in 1978 under the sponsorship of the Buddhist Association of the United States, and subsequently founded the CMC Chán Meditation Center in Queens, New York and the Dharma Drum Retreat Center in Pine Bush, New York.[47] The Fo Guang Shan organization, which has branches worldwide, also belongs to the Chan school; its founder, the Venerable Master Hsing Yun is a lineage holder in the Linji (Rinzai) tradition.

Derived from Vietnam

Two notable Vietnamese Zen teachers have been influential in Western countries: Thich Thien-An and Thich Nhat Hanh. Thich Thien-An came to America in 1966 as a visiting professor at UCLA and taught traditional Thien meditation. Thich Nhat Hanh was a monk in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, during which he was a peace activist. In response to these activities, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967 by Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1966, he left Vietnam in exile and now resides at Plum Village, a monastery in France. He has written more than one hundred books about Buddhism, which have made him one of the very few most prominent Buddhist authors among the general readership in the West. In his books and talks, Thich Nhat Hanh emphasizes mindfulness (sati) as the most important practice in daily life.

Pan-lineage organizations

In the United States, two pan-lineage organizations have formed in the last few years. The oldest is the American Zen Teachers Association which sponsors an annual conference. North American Soto teachers in North America, led by several of the heirs of Taizan Maezumi and Shunryu Suzuki, have also formed the Soto Zen Buddhist Association.

See also

Further reading

Classic history

  • Dumoulin, Heinrich (2005), Zen Buddhism: A History. Volume 1: India and China. World Wisdom Books. ISBN 9780941532891
  • Dumoulin, Heinrich (2005), Zen Buddhism: A History. Volume 2: Japan. World Wisdom Books. ISBN 9780941532907

Critical Zen-studies

  • Mcrae, John (2003), Seeing through Zen. Encounter, Transformation, and Genealogy in Chinese Chan Buddhism. The University Press Group Ltd . ISBN 9780520237988
  • McMahan, David L. (2008), The Making of Buddhist Modernism. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195183276
  • Faure, Bernard (1991), The Rhetoric of Immediacy. A Cultural Critique of Chan/Zen Buddhism. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton Universitu Press. ISBN 0-691-02963-6

External links

References

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  2. ^ Maspero, Henri (1981). Taoism and Chinese Religion. University of Massachusetts. p. 46. ISBN 0870233084. 
  3. ^ Confucius.2000.com
  4. ^ a b c Dumoulin, Heinrich (2005). Zen Buddhism: A History. vol. 1: India and China. Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom. pp. 8–9, 68, 166–167, 169–172. ISBN 0941532895. 
  5. ^ Buswell, Robert E., ed. Encyclopedia of Buddhism. 1. Macmillan. pp. 57, 130. ISBN 0028657187. 
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  7. ^ a b Chaline, Eric (2003). The Book of Zen: The Path to Inner Peace. Barron's Educational Series. pp. 26–27. ISBN 0764155989. 
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  43. ^ Vatican discernments around the use of Zen and Yoga in christian prayer
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