Definition of Zen
The word ”Zen” is a Japanese way to pronounce the Chinese word ”Chan”. The Chinese word ”Chan”, is based on the pronunciation of the Sanskrit word ”Dhyana”, which means meditation.
Zen is regarded as the most well-known branch of Buddhism in the United States. Its concepts have influenced Western society since the later half of the 20th century. In Japan, there are around 9.6 million Zen Buddhists, while North America and Europe have witnessed growing development of Zen groups.
Zen Beliefs and Practices
Zen Buddhism emphasizes on achieving enlightenment through meditation as Siddharta Gautama did long ago. It believes that all human beings have Buddha-hood within them and the potential to attain nirvana. However, the Buddha-hood has been blinded by ignorance. Aiming at alleviating this ignorance, Zen advocates that meditation is a better way to gain a breakthrough of insight and awareness of ultimate reality than the study of religious temples, devotional practices and prayer, scriptures of monasteries and good works about Buddhism. In order to be trained as a Zen Buddhist, a disciple should practice under the guidance of a master.
Zen in China
Zen in China (Chan) dates back to the 6th century CE, when a South Indian monk named Bodhidharma preached in China. Lankavatara Sutra provided some philosophical background for its development in China. As it developed in China, Taoist concepts exerted some influence on it in the respect that Chan focused on spontaneity and naturalness in all living beings.
Zen in Japan
Zen Buddhism developed in Japan as early as the 7th century. Since the 12th century, Zen had been a significant religious force in Japan, considerably influencing Japanese cultural, political and social aspects of all kinds.