Zen Buddhism is one of the most well-known schools of Buddhism in America. Its concepts have been influential on western society since the latter half of the 20th century. The key to Buddhahood in Zen is simply self-knowledge. The way to gain self-knowledge is through meditation (which is what the word “zen” means).
Now, “meditation” is one of the cornerstones of Buddhism, where, under the name dhyana , it forms the final and most important aspect of gaining enlightenment. Meditation, however, is a strict religious discipline: the mind must be made sharp and attentive in order to intuit from itself the Truth of Buddhahood.
Zen Beliefs and Practices
Zen Buddhism focuses on attaining enlightenment (bodhi) through meditation as Siddharta Gautama did. It believes that every individual has the divine element within himself/herself. It teaches that all human beings have the Buddha-nature, or the potential to attain enlightenment, within them. The reason one is not able to achieve that enlightenment is because their Buddha-nature has been clouded by ignorance.
To overcome this ignorance, Zen rejects the study of scriptures, religious rites, devotional practices, and good works. It strongly believes that meditation is the only method that leads to a sudden breakthrough of insight and awareness of ultimate reality.
Zen in China
Zen began in China (where it is called Ch’an) in the 6th century CE. Its introduction to China is generally attributed to Bodhidharma, a South Indian monk who arrived in China in about 520 CE.
Several schools of Zen developed in China in the 9th century.
The Rinzai school of Buddhism emphasizes on the use of paradoxical puzzles or questions which helps the practitioner to overcome the normal boundaries of logic.
The Soto school ofÂ Buddhism is another Zen sect which emphasizes on zazen, or sitting meditation, as the means to attain enlightenment. The Soto practitioner is encouraged to clear the mind of all thoughts and concepts, without making any effort towards enlightenment, until enlightenment occurs.
Zen Meditation is widely followed. It is easy to learn and it can be learnt under the guidance of a Master.