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What is Zen Buddhism and how can it make you happier …

Posted: June 18, 2019 at 3:48 pm


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Trying to explain or define Zen Buddhism, by reducing it to a book, to a few definitions, or to a website is impossible. Instead, it freezes Zen in time and space, thereby weakening its meaning.

Defining Zen () is like trying to describe the taste of honey to someone who has never tasted it before. You can try to explain the texture and scent of honey, or you can try to compare and correlate it with similar foods. However, honey is honey! As long as you have not tasted it, you are in the illusion of what honey is.

The same goes with Zen because Zen Buddhism is a practice that needs to be experienced, not a concept that you can intellectualize or understand with your brain. The information that we'll give here won't cover all of what of Zen is, but is a starting point to the Zen experience.

At the heart of the Japanese culture lies Zen, a school of Mahayana Buddhism. Zen is, first and foremost, a practice that was uninterruptedly transmitted from master to disciple, and that goes back to the spiritual Enlightenment of a man named Siddhrtha Gautama (Shakyamuni Gotama in Japanese) - The Buddha - 2500 years ago in India.

The practice of Zen meditation or Zazen ( - za meaning sitting, and Zen meaning meditation in Japanese), is the core of Zen Buddhism: without it, there is no Zen. Zen meditation, is a way of vigilance and self-discovery which is practiced while sitting on a meditation cushion. It is the experience of living from moment to moment, in the here and now. It is through the practice of Zazen that Gautama got enlightened and became the Buddha.

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

Based on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, 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.

Zen is not interested in metaphysical theories and rituals and focuses entirely on the mindful practice of Zazen. Zen is very simple. It is so simple, in fact, that it's very difficult to grasp.

In the silence of the dojo or temple, quietly sit down, stop moving, and let go your thoughts. Focus just on your Zazen posture and your breathing. Keep your back straight. Let your ego and your unconscious mind melt away, merge with the universe.

This is Zen.

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What is Zen Buddhism and how can it make you happier ...

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June 18th, 2019 at 3:48 pm

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Zen Mindfulness

Posted: May 27, 2019 at 2:50 pm


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Mindfulness

What is it? Continuous, clear awareness of the present moment. Always returning, whether from an enjoyable fantasy, an emotional outburst or a melancholy remembrance; always returning to this moment. Being fully here, present-moment after present-moment. This is mindfulness. Its not about having your mind-full of something, its actually the opposite its the setting aside of your mental and emotional baggage, resulting in a clarity and a fluidity that lets thoughts, feelings and perceptions flow smoothly through your awareness without sticking.

How do we get it? Mindfulness is something you do rather than get. But, as you find as soon as you start trying, it can be quite difficult to simply pay attention to what is happening right in front of you. If youre like most people, youve trained yourself over many years to spend your energy following your inner narratives. So, as soon as youve set your awareness on something, it bounces away to interpretations, speculations and projections, and often ends up in a swirl of emotion. To change this you have to re-train your mind.

3 steps

The Three Step method is a roadmap to the mindful life. Rooted in Zen Buddhism, its new approach begins with viewing our states of mind as physical places that we visit. We explore the landscape of each one and discover its main characteristics so that we can pinpoint our position on the roadmap at any time. As we do this we learn to move between these mindstates at will. Ultimately we see how to integrate and balance these states, moving from one to the other to live our life in a dynamic way directly inspired by the living moment rather than being unconsciously driven by our fears, worries and fantasies. When were emotionally overwhelmed, well recognize that were in that place and know which mind-state to move to in order to regain equanimity. When we need to take resolute action, well know which state is best suited to the task. The end result is a self-perpetuating mindfulness: when practicing the techniques the mind becomes calm and clear, which in turn makes the process itself more effective.

How can I learn it?

The Three Steps to Mindfulness method is now available online as the third section of the Zen Mindfulness Cloudbook.

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Zen Mindfulness

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May 27th, 2019 at 2:50 pm

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The Belief System of Zen Buddhism | Synonym

Posted: May 22, 2019 at 1:45 pm


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Rock gardens are a well-known example of Zen art.

Zen is a Japanese school of Buddhism that, along with schools that include Nichiren, Tendai, Shingon and Jodo-shu, has existed for centuries and remains popular today. Perhaps more than any other Buddhist school, Zen is concerned with the awakening of awareness in the present moment. It is a disciplined, minimalistic and sometimes fierce system that is more concerned with practice than philosophy. According to its practitioners belief itself is counterproductive to awareness and hinders awakening.

The patriarch of the Zen lineage is Bodhidharma, a Buddhist monk who traveled from India in the 5th century AD to bring the practice of dhyana, or meditation, to China. The lineage became known as Ch'an, a word derived from dhyana. In the 12th century, the Tendai monk Eisai traveled to China to study Ch'an with the Lin-chi school -- Rinzai in Japanese -- and brought the teachings back to Japan. The nobility continued to prefer the flowery Tendai rituals, however, and Zen, which is the Japanese pronunciation of Ch'an, did not become immediately popular. Dogen, another monk who traveled to China, helped establish Zen by founding the Soto school in the 13th century.

The core beliefs of Buddhism are contained in the Four Noble Truths. They state that the world is suffering, that suffering has a cause, that you can end suffering and that the way to do so is to follow the Eightfold Path, which is a set of guidelines for proper behavior. Zen does not contradict any of these truths, but it places more emphasis on the third truth than other branches of Buddhism. For the Zen practitioner, ending suffering by waking up into this moment is not only possible, it is the only religious practice that matters.

Practitioners of Zen meditation, or zazen, sit motionless on benches for up to 18 hours a day, subject to a strike from the master's rod if sleep overtakes them. While meditating, they may be struggling with a koan, a nonsensical question posed by the master that frustrates logic. At some point, the practitioner may have an "Aha" moment when the austerity of the practice and the impossibility of solving the koan combine to destroy the thinking process altogether. At that point, the practitioner may awaken into satori, an experience of the present moment unconditioned by thinking. That unconditioned awareness is the goal of Zen practice.

Zen is essentially a system with no belief -- or beyond belief -- and adherents have conveyed inspiration through a multitude of art forms that have come to define Japanese culture. Zen artistic renderings are not expressions of logical beliefs, but of the intuitive understanding that Zen practice awakens. These renderings include rock gardens, tea ceremony, haiku poetry, sumi'e painting and kaiseki cuisine, among many others. Bodhidharma is a favorite subject of sumi'e artists, and his fierce, lidless eyes -- legend has it that he cut off his own eyelids -- glower from countless wall hangings.

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May 22nd, 2019 at 1:45 pm

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Zen Buddhism – Home | Facebook

Posted: May 12, 2019 at 3:52 am


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When a baby is born, he is extremely simple, not complicated, real, sincere, in complete harmony with Nature and with the Cosmic Order.

The subconscious mind of a baby takes very little space in his life as he is connected to the Universe.

As we grow older, the subconscious mind grows bigger and takes more and more space into our life.

With time, the subconscious mind becomes the real you. It is composed of beliefs, fears, and attitudes that interfere with everyday life and that pushes us away from happiness our original nature.

The subconscious mind is a defense mechanism created and maintained by the ego. Its highest priority is to keep us emotionally safe. It spends most of its energy protecting our feelings and keeping us out of emotional pain and discomfort.

Do not underestimate the subconscious mind. It is stronger than the conscious mind, even stronger that the will.

As we grow older and forget our connection with the Cosmos, the subconscious mind becomes the core of who we are; it becomes the center of our personality.

During meditation, the subconscious mind comes to the surface, and we can observe it.

Through the practice of Zazen, with time, the subconscious mind diminishes, decrease and unite with the conscious mind so that in the end its us, its our existence here and now, that dominates, and not our subconscious.

- Fuyu

More on Zen:www.zen-buddhism.net

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May 12th, 2019 at 3:52 am

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Zen 101: An Introduction to Zen Buddhism – learnreligions.com

Posted: May 2, 2019 at 9:50 pm


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You've heard of Zen. You may even have had moments of Zeninstances of insight and a feeling of connectedness and understanding that seem to come out of nowhere. But what exactlyis Zen?

The scholarly answer to that question is that Zen is a school of Mahayana Buddhism that emerged in China about 15 centuries ago. In China, it is called Ch'an Buddhism. Ch'an is the Chinese rendering of the Sanskrit word dhyana, which refers to a mind absorbed in meditation. "Zen" is the Japanese rendering of Ch'an. Zen is called Thien in Vietnam and Seon in Korea. In any language, the name can be translated as "Meditation Buddhism."

Some scholars suggest that Zen originally was something like a marriage of Taoism and traditional Mahayana Buddhism, in which the complex meditative practices of Mahayana met the no-nonsense simplicity of Chinese Taoism to produce a new branch of Buddhism that is today known the world over.

Be aware that Zen is a complicated practice with many traditions. In this discussion, the term "Zen" is used in a general sense, to represent all different schools.

Zen began to emerge as a distinctive school of Mahayana Buddhism when the Indian sage Bodhidharma (ca. 470543) taught at the Shaolin Monastery of China. (Yes, it's a real place, and yes, there is a historic connection between kung fu and Zen.) To this day, Bodhidharma is called the First Patriarch of Zen.

Bodhidharma's teachings tapped into some developments already in progress, such as the confluence of philosophical Taoism with Buddhism. Taoism so profoundly impacted early Zen that some philosophers and texts are claimed by both religions. The early Mahayana philosophies of Madhyamika(ca. third century A.D.) and Yogacara(ca. third century A.D.) also played huge roles in the development of Zen.

Under the Sixth Patriarch, Huineng (638713 A.D.), Zen shed most of its vestigial Indian trappings, becoming more Chinese and more like the Zen we now think of. Some consider Huineng, not Bodhidharma, to be the true father of Zen since his personality and influence are felt in Zen to this day. Huineng's tenure was at the beginning of what is still called the Golden Age of Zen. This Golden Age flourished during the same period as China's Tang Dynasty, 618907 A.D., and the masters of this Golden Age still speak to the present through koans and stories.

During these years, Zen organized itself into five "houses," or five schools. Two of these, called in Japanese the Rinzai and the Soto schools, still exist and remain distinctive from each other.

Zen was transmitted to Vietnam very early, possibly as early as the seventh century. A series of teachers brought Zen to Korea during the Golden Age. Eihei Dogen (12001253) was not the first Zen teacher in Japan, but he was the first to establish a lineage that lives to this day. The West took an interest in Zen after World War II, and now Zen is well established in North America, Europe, and elsewhere.

Bodhidharma's definition:

Zen is sometimes said to be "the face-to-face transmission of the dharma outside the sutras." Dharma refers to the teachings, and sutras, in a Buddhist context,are sacred texts or scriptures, many of which are considered to be transcriptions of the oral teachings of the Buddha. Throughout the history of Zen, teachers have transmitted their realization of dharma to students by working with them face-to-face. This makes the lineage of teachers critical. Genuine Zen teachers can trace their lineage of teachers back to Bodhidharma, and before that to the historical Buddha, and even to those Buddhas before the historical Buddha.

Certainly, large parts of the lineage charts have to be taken on faith. But if anything is treated as sacred in Zen, it's the teachers' lineages. With very few exceptions, calling oneself a "Zen teacher" without having received a transmission from another teacher is considered a serious defilement of Zen.

Zen has become extremely trendy in recent years, and those who are seriously interested are advised to be wary of anyone proclaiming to be or advertised as a "Zen master." The phrase "Zen master" is hardly ever heard inside Zen. The title "Zen master" (in Japanese, zenji) is only given posthumously. In Zen, living Zen teachers are called "Zen teachers," and an especially venerable and beloved teacher is called roshi, which means "old man."

Bodhidharma's definition also says that Zen is not an intellectual discipline you can learn from books. Instead, it's a practice of studying the mind and seeing into one's nature. The main tool of this practice is zazen.

The meditation practice of Zen, called zazen in Japanese, is the heart of Zen. Daily zazen is the foundation of Zen practice.

You can learn the basics of zazen from books, websites,and videos. However, if you're serious about pursuing a regular zazen practice, it is important to sit zazen with others at least occasionally; most people findthat sitting with others deepens the practice. If there's no monastery or Zen center handy, you might find a "sitting group" of laypeople who sit zazen together at someone's home.

As with most forms ofBuddhist meditation, beginners are taught to work with their breath to learn concentration. Once your ability to concentrate has ripened (expect this to take a few months), you may either sit shikantazawhich means "just sitting"or dokoanstudy with a Zen teacher.

As we find with many aspects of Buddhism, most peoplehave to practice zazen for a while to appreciate zazen. At first you might think of it primarily as mind training, and of course, it is. If you stay with the practice, however, your understanding of why you sit will change. This will be your own personal and intimate journey, and it may not resemble the experience of anyone else.

One of the most difficult parts of zazen for most people to comprehend is sitting with no goals or expectations, including an expectation of "getting enlightened." Most peopledo sit with goals and expectations for months or years before the goals are exhausted and they finally learn to "just sit." Along the way, people learn a lot about themselves.

You may find "experts" who will tell you zazen is optional in Zen, but such experts are mistaken. This misunderstanding of the role of zazen comes from misreadings of Zen literature, which is common because Zen literature often makes no sense to readers intent on literalness.

It isn't true that Zen makes no sense. Rather, "making sense" of it requires understanding language differently from the way we normally understand it.

Zen literature is full of vexatious exchanges, such as Moshan's "Its Peak Cannot Be Seen," that defy literal interpretation. However, these are not random, Dadaist utterings. Something specific is intended. How do you understand it?

Bodhidharma said that Zen is "direct pointing to the mind." Understanding is gained through intimate experience, not through intellect or expository prose. Words may be used, but they are used in a presentational rather than a literal way.

Zen teacher Robert Aitken wrote in "The Gateless Barrier":

No secret decoder ring will help you decipher Zenspeak. After you've practiced awhile, particularly with a teacher, you may catch onor not. Be skeptical of explanations of koan study that are found on the internet, which are often peppered with academic explanations that are painfully wrong, because the "scholar" analyzed the koan as if it were discursive prose. Answers will not be found through normal reading and study; they must be lived.

If you want to understand Zen, you really must go face the dragon in the cave for yourself.

Wherever Zen has established itself, it has rarely been one of the larger or more popular sects of Buddhism. The truth is, it's a very difficult path, particularly for laypeople. It is not for everybody

On the other hand, for such a small sect, Zen has had a disproportionate impact on the art and culture of Asia, especially in China and Japan. Beyond kung fu and other martial arts, Zen has influenced painting, poetry, music, flower arranging, and the tea ceremony.

Ultimately, Zen is about coming face-to-face with yourselfin a very direct and intimate way. This is not easy. But if you like a challenge, the journey is worthwhile.

Aitken, Robert. The Gateless Barrier. North Point Press, 1991.

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Zen 101: An Introduction to Zen Buddhism - learnreligions.com

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May 2nd, 2019 at 9:50 pm

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The Four Noble Truths | ZEN BUDDHISM

Posted: April 14, 2019 at 5:49 am


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After Buddha gave up worldly life and sat down for meditation under the Bodhi tree, he attained enlightenment. He laid down his teachings in easily understandable language for the common man in the form of Four Noble truths.

Though Buddhism is now divided into several schools each of which has its own set of beliefs, the essence of Buddhism is summed up in the Four Noble Truths enunciated by the Buddha.

Until the age of 29, Prince Siddhartha (Buddha's real name) was confined to the four walls of the palace by his father. When he first stepped out of the palace, he saw four things which left a deep impact in his tender and nave mind: a new born baby, a crippled old man, a sick man and the corpse of a dead man.

The Prince, who had been brought up in the lap of luxury, oblivious to the suffering in the world outside the palace, was deeply perturbed when he saw death, misery, and suffering with his own eyes.

During his meditation, he realized that 'life is suffering.' The reason for this being the fact that human beings are not perfect. Likewise, the world inhabited by them is also ridden with imperfections.

The Buddha realized that during their journey through life, a human being has to endure many sufferings- physical and psychological- in the form of old age, sickness, separation from beloved ones, deprivation, encounters with unpleasant situations and people, lamentation, sorrow and suffering.

All these misfortunes befall human beings because they are subject to desires and cravings. If they are able to get what they aspire for, they derive pleasure or satisfaction. But this joy or pleasure is also short lived and does not last too long. If it does tend to last too long, the pleasure associated with it becomes monotonous and fades away.

The second noble truth tells us that the root of all suffering is attachment. To avoid suffering, we need to understand what causes suffering and then weeding out these causes from our lives.

According to Buddha, the basic cause of suffering is "the attachment to the desire to have (craving) and the desire not to have (aversion)".

All of us have desires and cravings. Since we cannot satisfy ALL our desires and cravings, we get disturbed and angry, which is but another manifestation of suffering.

The same holds good for people who are over ambitious and seek too much. As they achieve what they desire, they get lustful and want more of it. And so the vicious circle continues.

The other problem pointed out by Buddha here, which is very pertinent, is that denying desire (or depriving oneself) is like denying life itself. A person, he said, has to rise above attachments and for that, he need not deprive himself. The problem arises when he does not know where to put an end to his desires. And when he yields into his desires, he becomes a slave to them.

Buddha stated that to put an end to suffering, we need to control our desires or practice non-attachment. This may sound difficult but can be achieved through diligent practice.

This liberation from attachment and sorrow frees the mind of all troubles and worries. The attainment of this liberation is called "Nirvana" in Sanskrit and "Satori" in Japanese.

Buddha says that salvation (Nirvana/Satori) is a condition that can be attained by leading a balanced life. And to lead a balanced life, one needs to follow the Eightfold path which is a 'gradual path of self-improvement.'

The way to the Eightfold Path is Zen.

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The Four Noble Truths | ZEN BUDDHISM

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April 14th, 2019 at 5:49 am

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The Eightfold Path | ZEN BUDDHISM

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The Buddha laid down the eightfold path for his followers and enunciated that by following this path, they could put an end to their suffering.

Directly related to the Four Noble Truths, the eightfold path, as laid down by Buddha, helps an individual attain the state of Nirvana by freeing him from attachments and delusions and thereby helping him understand the innate truth of all things. This path, therefore, helps a person with his ethical and mental growth and development.

Buddha laid great emphasis on implementing the teachings since a higher level or existence can be attained only by putting translating thoughts into actions.

The eightfold path suggested by Buddha involves adherence to:

By right view, Buddha means seeing things in the right perspective. Seeing things as they really are, without any false illusions or pretenses. He wanted his followers to see and to understand the transient nature of worldly ideas and possessions and to understand that they can attain salvation only if they practiced the right karma.

Buddha says that we are what we are because of what we think. What goes on inside our minds (our thought process) determines our course of action. It is, therefore, necessary to follow the path of Right thought or Right Intention. To have the Right Intention or the Right Thought, a person should be aware of his purpose or role in life and is studying the teachings of Buddha.

Buddha asks his followers to speak truth, to avoid slander and malicious gossip and to refrain from abusive language. Harsh words that can cause distress or offend others should also be avoided while also staying clear of mindless idle chatter which lacks any depth.

Behaving peacefully and harmoniously; Right action, according to Buddha, lies in adherence to the following guidelines:

- Staying in harmony with fellow human beings- Behaving peacefully- Not stealing- Not killing anyone- Avoiding overindulgence in sensual pleasure- Abstaining from sexual misconduct- Not indulging in fraudulent practices, deceitfulness and robbery

By laying down this guideline, Buddha advises his followers to earn their bread and butter righteously, without resorting to illegal and nefarious activities. He does not expect his followers to exploit other human beings or animals or to trade in weapons or intoxicants.

Buddha believed that human nature imposes undue restrictions on the mind at times, causing a person to harbor ill thoughts. So we have to train our mind to think in the right direction if we wish to become better human beings. Once we gain control over our thoughts and replace the unpleasant ones with positive ones, we shall be moving in the right direction.

The Right Mindfulness, together with the Right Concentration, forms the basis of Buddhist meditation. By proposing this, Buddha suggests his followers to focus mentally on their emotions, mental faculties, and capabilities while staying away from worldly desires and other distractions.

It refers to the ability of the mind to see things as they are without being led astray by greed, avarice, anger and ignorance.

This eighth principle laid down by Buddha is fundamental for proper meditation. Zazen (or, Zen meditation) is the way used in Zen to reach the right concentration or "state of mind". Needless to add, this is the most vital of all the aspects stated in the Noble Eightfold path since, without proper meditation, an individual cannot move on to a higher level of well-being.

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The Eightfold Path | ZEN BUDDHISM

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April 14th, 2019 at 5:49 am

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What is Zen? | ZEN BUDDHISM

Posted: April 2, 2019 at 9:48 pm


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Trying to explain or define Zen Buddhism, by reducing it to a book, to a few definitions, or to a website is impossible. Instead, it freezes Zen in time and space, thereby weakening its meaning.

Defining Zen () is like trying to describe the taste of honey to someone who has never tasted it before. You can try to explain the texture and scent of honey, or you can try to compare and correlate it with similar foods. However, honey is honey! As long as you have not tasted it, you are in the illusion of what honey is.

The same goes with Zen because Zen Buddhism is a practice that needs to be experienced, not a concept that you can intellectualize or understand with your brain. The information that we'll give here won't cover all of what of Zen is, but is a starting point to the Zen experience.

At the heart of the Japanese culture lies Zen, a school of Mahayana Buddhism. Zen is, first and foremost, a practice that was uninterruptedly transmitted from master to disciple, and that goes back to the spiritual Enlightenment of a man named Siddhrtha Gautama (Shakyamuni Gotama in Japanese) - The Buddha - 2500 years ago in India.

The practice of Zen meditation or Zazen ( - za meaning sitting, and Zen meaning meditation in Japanese), is the core of Zen Buddhism: without it, there is no Zen. Zen meditation, is a way of vigilance and self-discovery which is practiced while sitting on a meditation cushion. It is the experience of living from moment to moment, in the here and now. It is through the practice of Zazen that Gautama got enlightened and became the Buddha.

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

Based on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, 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.

Zen is not interested in metaphysical theories and rituals and focuses entirely on the mindful practice of Zazen. Zen is very simple. It is so simple, in fact, that it's very difficult to grasp.

In the silence of the dojo or temple, quietly sit down, stop moving, and let go your thoughts. Focus just on your Zazen posture and your breathing. Keep your back straight. Let your ego and your unconscious mind melt away, merge with the universe.

This is Zen.

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What is Zen? | ZEN BUDDHISM

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April 2nd, 2019 at 9:48 pm

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Buddhist beliefs | ZEN BUDDHISM

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Since the beginning of time, man is searching for the truth. Thousands of years ago, our ancestors, sat under the stars, and around the campfire discussed and asked themselves the same questions we ask ourselves today. Who am I? Why am I here? Is there a God? Is there life after death? Are we alone in the Universe?

Zen is very pragmatic and down to earth. It is essentially a practice, an experience, not a theory or dogma. Zen adheres to no specific philosophy or faith, and has no dogma that its followers must accept or believe in, but it traditionnally accept the concepts of karma and samsara. For us westerners, this is very different from our Christian religion and its filled with dogmas.

Zen does not seek to answer subjective questions because these are not important issues for Zen. What really matters is the here and now: not God, not the afterlife, but the present moment and the practice of meditation (zazen).

Moreover, Zen firmly believes that nobody knows the answers to those questions and that they are impossible to answer because of our limited condition. Life is a dream, a grand illusion that we perceive through the filter of our personality, our experiences, our ego. This is a great piece of theater in which we do not see all the actors and in which we barely understand the role of those that we see.

Zen gladly accepts the idea that men are only men and nothing more. Man, being what he is, cannot answer life's impossible questions without falling into the trap of illusion. No one knows the answers to the deep questions about life and death.

These questions are impossible to answer, given the limited sphere of knowledge that comes with the condition of being a human being. As Master Taisen Deshimaru said, "It is impossible to give a definite answer to those questions, unless you suffer from a major mental disorder."

Does this mean that Zen closes the door to metaphysical phenomena? Absolutely not! Zen cannot confirm nor deny them, therefore, it is better to remain silent and to live simply in the moment.

What does Zen think of religions beliefs then? As a great Zen Master once said, "Faith is like painting the walls of your room with mud, then trying to convince yourself that it is beautiful, and it smells good". Faith is an illusion, a dream that we strongly consider real, but that in reality only impoverishes the true spirituality of man. The strength of our faith and conviction has nothing to do with the fact that a belief is true or not. The veracity of our faith is in us only, nowhere else.

Religions feel compelled to give answers to everything as a sign of their "great wisdom", but for Zen, not giving any answer at all is actually the great wisdom.

A true religion shows man how to think and not what to think, therefore, we must learn to ask great questions rather than looking for great answers.

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April 2nd, 2019 at 9:48 pm

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Zen 101: An Introduction to Zen Buddhism – ThoughtCo

Posted: March 22, 2019 at 2:43 pm


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You've heard of Zen. You may even have had moments of Zeninstances of insight and a feeling of connectedness and understanding that seem to come out of nowhere. But what exactlyis Zen?

The scholarly answer to that question is that Zen is a school of Mahayana Buddhism that emerged in China about 15 centuries ago. In China, it is called Ch'an Buddhism. Ch'an is the Chinese rendering of the Sanskrit word dhyana, which refers to a mind absorbed in meditation. "Zen" is the Japanese rendering of Ch'an. Zen is called Thien in Vietnam and Seon in Korea. In any language, the name can be translated as "Meditation Buddhism."

Some scholars suggest that Zen originally was something like a marriage of Taoism and traditional Mahayana Buddhism, in which the complex meditative practices of Mahayana met the no-nonsense simplicity of Chinese Taoism to produce a new branch of Buddhism that is today known the world over.

Be aware that Zen is a complicated practice with many traditions. In this discussion, the term "Zen" is used in a general sense, to represent all different schools.

Zen began to emerge as a distinctive school of Mahayana Buddhism when the Indian sage Bodhidharma (ca. 470543) taught at the Shaolin Monastery of China. (Yes, it's a real place, and yes, there is a historic connection between kung fu and Zen.) To this day, Bodhidharma is called the First Patriarch of Zen.

Bodhidharma's teachings tapped into some developments already in progress, such as the confluence of philosophical Taoism with Buddhism. Taoism so profoundly impacted early Zen that some philosophers and texts are claimed by both religions. The early Mahayana philosophies of Madhyamika(ca. third century A.D.) and Yogacara(ca. third century A.D.) also played huge roles in the development of Zen.

Under the Sixth Patriarch, Huineng (638713 A.D.), Zen shed most of its vestigial Indian trappings, becoming more Chinese and more like the Zen we now think of. Some consider Huineng, not Bodhidharma, to be the true father of Zen since his personality and influence are felt in Zen to this day. Huineng's tenure was at the beginning of what is still called the Golden Age of Zen. This Golden Age flourished during the same period as China's Tang Dynasty, 618907 A.D., and the masters of this Golden Age still speak to the present through koans and stories.

During these years, Zen organized itself into five "houses," or five schools. Two of these, called in Japanese the Rinzai and the Soto schools, still exist and remain distinctive from each other.

Zen was transmitted to Vietnam very early, possibly as early as the seventh century. A series of teachers brought Zen to Korea during the Golden Age. Eihei Dogen (12001253) was not the first Zen teacher in Japan, but he was the first to establish a lineage that lives to this day. The West took an interest in Zen after World War II, and now Zen is well established in North America, Europe, and elsewhere.

Bodhidharma's definition:

Zen is sometimes said to be "the face-to-face transmission of the dharma outside the sutras." Dharma refers to the teachings, and sutras, in a Buddhist context,are sacred texts or scriptures, many of which are considered to be transcriptions of the oral teachings of the Buddha. Throughout the history of Zen, teachers have transmitted their realization of dharma to students by working with them face-to-face. This makes the lineage of teachers critical. Genuine Zen teachers can trace their lineage of teachers back to Bodhidharma, and before that to the historical Buddha, and even to those Buddhas before the historical Buddha.

Certainly, large parts of the lineage charts have to be taken on faith. But if anything is treated as sacred in Zen, it's the teachers' lineages. With very few exceptions, calling oneself a "Zen teacher" without having received a transmission from another teacher is considered a serious defilement of Zen.

Zen has become extremely trendy in recent years, and those who are seriously interested are advised to be wary of anyone proclaiming to be or advertised as a "Zen master." The phrase "Zen master" is hardly ever heard inside Zen. The title "Zen master" (in Japanese, zenji) is only given posthumously. In Zen, living Zen teachers are called "Zen teachers," and an especially venerable and beloved teacher is called roshi, which means "old man."

Bodhidharma's definition also says that Zen is not an intellectual discipline you can learn from books. Instead, it's a practice of studying the mind and seeing into one's nature. The main tool of this practice is zazen.

The meditation practice of Zen, called zazen in Japanese, is the heart of Zen. Daily zazen is the foundation of Zen practice.

You can learn the basics of zazen from books, websites,and videos. However, if you're serious about pursuing a regular zazen practice, it is important to sit zazen with others at least occasionally; most people findthat sitting with others deepens the practice. If there's no monastery or Zen center handy, you might find a "sitting group" of laypeople who sit zazen together at someone's home.

As with most forms ofBuddhist meditation, beginners are taught to work with their breath to learn concentration. Once your ability to concentrate has ripened (expect this to take a few months), you may either sit shikantazawhich means "just sitting"or dokoanstudy with a Zen teacher.

As we find with many aspects of Buddhism, most peoplehave to practice zazen for a while to appreciate zazen. At first you might think of it primarily as mind training, and of course, it is. If you stay with the practice, however, your understanding of why you sit will change. This will be your own personal and intimate journey, and it may not resemble the experience of anyone else.

One of the most difficult parts of zazen for most people to comprehend is sitting with no goals or expectations, including an expectation of "getting enlightened." Most peopledo sit with goals and expectations for months or years before the goals are exhausted and they finally learn to "just sit." Along the way, people learn a lot about themselves.

You may find "experts" who will tell you zazen is optional in Zen, but such experts are mistaken. This misunderstanding of the role of zazen comes from misreadings of Zen literature, which is common because Zen literature often makes no sense to readers intent on literalness.

It isn't true that Zen makes no sense. Rather, "making sense" of it requires understanding language differently from the way we normally understand it.

Zen literature is full of vexatious exchanges, such as Moshan's "Its Peak Cannot Be Seen," that defy literal interpretation. However, these are not random, Dadaist utterings. Something specific is intended. How do you understand it?

Bodhidharma said that Zen is "direct pointing to the mind." Understanding is gained through intimate experience, not through intellect or expository prose. Words may be used, but they are used in a presentational rather than a literal way.

Zen teacher Robert Aitken wrote in "The Gateless Barrier":

No secret decoder ring will help you decipher Zenspeak. After you've practiced awhile, particularly with a teacher, you may catch onor not. Be skeptical of explanations of koan study that are found on the internet, which are often peppered with academic explanations that are painfully wrong, because the "scholar" analyzed the koan as if it were discursive prose. Answers will not be found through normal reading and study; they must be lived.

If you want to understand Zen, you really must go face the dragon in the cave for yourself.

Wherever Zen has established itself, it has rarely been one of the larger or more popular sects of Buddhism. The truth is, it's a very difficult path, particularly for laypeople. It is not for everybody

On the other hand, for such a small sect, Zen has had a disproportionate impact on the art and culture of Asia, especially in China and Japan. Beyond kung fu and other martial arts, Zen has influenced painting, poetry, music, flower arranging, and the tea ceremony.

Ultimately, Zen is about coming face-to-face with yourselfin a very direct and intimate way. This is not easy. But if you like a challenge, the journey is worthwhile.

Aitken, Robert. The Gateless Barrier. North Point Press, 1991.

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Zen 101: An Introduction to Zen Buddhism - ThoughtCo

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March 22nd, 2019 at 2:43 pm

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