What is Zen?

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The word Zen is derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the Middle Chinese word Chán, which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna. It can be further translated as “absorption” or “meditative state. A school of Mahayana Buddhism, Zen developed in China during the 6th century. From China, Zen spread south to Vietnam, northeast to Korea and east to Japan. Central to Zen is the practice of dhyana or meditation.

The teachings of Zen include various sources of Mahāyāna thought, especially Yogācāra, the Tathāgatagarbha Sutras and Huayan, with their emphasis on Buddha-nature, totality, and the Bodhisattva-ideal. The Prajñāpāramitā literature and, to a lesser extent, Madhyamaka have also been influential.

Zen emphasizes rigorous meditation-practice, insight into Buddha-nature, and the personal expression of this insight in daily life, especially for the benefit of others. As such, it deemphasizes mere knowledge of sutras and doctrine and favours direct understanding through zazen or zen meditation and interaction with an accomplished teacher.

That is, it is a way of vigilance and self-discovery which is practiced while sitting on a cushion. It is the experience of living from moment to moment, in the here and now. Zazen is an attitude of spiritual awakening, which when practiced, can become the source from which all the actions of daily life flow- eating, sleeping, breathing, walking, working, talking, thinking, and so on.

Zen Buddhism is not a theory, an idea, or a piece of knowledge. It is not a belief, a dogma, or a religion; but rather, it is a practical experience. We cannot intellectually grasp Zen, because human intelligence and wisdom is too limited- the dojo (the hall where Zazen is practiced) is different from the university.

Zen is not a moral teaching, and as it is without dogma, it does not require one to believe in anything. A true spiritual path does not tell people what to believe in, rather it shows them how to think; or, in the case of Zen- what not to think.

  • Holistic Sutra Posted for Ayurved Sutra by Soulpark with Shruti M
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