Friday, 17 February 2012

Zen is a school of Mahayana Buddhism which originated in China during the 6th century CE as Chán. From China, Zen spread south to Vietnam, and east to Korea and Japan.
The word Zen is from the Japanese pronunciation of the Middle Chinese word (Modern Mandarin: Chán), which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be approximately translated as "absorption" or "meditative state".
Zen emphasizes the personal expression of experiential wisdom in the attainment of enlightenment. As such, it de-emphasizes adherence to standardized 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. Chinese Chán

 Six Patriarchs   Bodhidharma

Traditionally the origin of Chán in China is credited to the Indian monk Bodhidharma. The story of his life, and of the Six Patriarchs, was constructed during the Tang Dynasty to lend credibility to the growing Chán-school.
Bodhidharma is recorded as having come to China during the time of Southern and Northern Dynasties to teach a "special transmission outside scriptures" which "did not stand upon words". Only scarce historical information is available about him, but his hagiography developed when the Chan tradition grew stronger and gained prominence in the early 8th century. By this time a lineage of the six ancestral founders of Chán in China was developed. The short text Two Entrances and Four Acts, written by T'an-lín (506–574), contains teachings which are attributed to Bodhidharma. The text is known from the Dunhuang-manuscripts.
The actual origins of Chán may lie in ascetic practitioners of Buddhism, who found refuge in forests and mountains. Huike, "a dhuta (extreme ascetic) who schooled others", figures in the stories about Bodhidharma. Huike is regarded as the second Chán patriarch, appointed by Bodhidharma to succeed him. One of Huike's students, Sengcan, to whom is ascribed the Xinxin Ming, is regarded as the third patriarch.
The link between Huike and Sengcan and the fourth patriarch Daoxin (580–651), "is far from clear and remains tenuous".With Daoxin and his successor, the fifth patriarch Hongren (601–674), there emerged a new style of teaching. A large group of students gathered at a permanent residence, and extreme ascetism became outdated. The period of Daoxin and Hongren came to be called the East Mountain Teaching, due to the location of the residence of Hongren at Huamgmei. Hui-neng, a minor student of Hongren, came to be regarded as the Sixth Patriarch, due to the influence of his student Shenhui.

Tang dynasty (618–907)

The term "East Mountain Teaching" was used by Shenxiu ( 606-706), the most important successor to Hongren. In 701 he was invited to the Imperial Court by Empress Wu, who paid him imperial reverence. This gave his school the support and the legitimation of the imperial court.
But the Chán-tradition depicts another student of Hongren, Huineng (638–713), as the sixth and last patriarch, due to the influence of Shenhui, a successor to Huineng. The dramatic story of Huineng's life, as narrated in the Platform Sutra, tells that there was a contest for the transmission of the title of patriarch. After being chosen by Hongren, the fifth patriarch, Huineng had to flee by night to Nanhua Temple in the south to avoid the wrath of Hongren's jealous senior disciples.
Historic research reveals that this story was created around the middle of the 8th century, beginning in 731 by Shenhui, a successor to Huineng, to win influence at the Imperial Court. He claimed Huineng to be the successor of Hongren's, instead of the then publicly recognized successor Shenxiu. Shenxiu's Northern School was denigrated as "gradual", in opposition to the self-acclaimed "sudden" approach of Shenhui's Southern School. Shenhui's story was so influential that all surviving schools regard Huineng as their ancestor. 
The An Lushan Rebellion (755-763) led to a loss of control by the Tang-dynasty, and changed the Chan scene again. Metropolitan Chan began to lose its status, while "other schools were arising in out-lying areas controlled by warlords. These are the forerunners of the Chan we know today."
The most important of these schools is the Hongzhou school of Mazu, to which also belong Shitou, Baizhang, Huangbo and Linji. This school became the archetypal expression of Zen, with it's emphasis on the personal expression of insight, and it's rejection of positive statements of this insight. Shitou is regarded as the Patriarch of Caodong (Jp. Soto), while Linji is regarded as the founder of Rinzai-Zen.
During the Song Dynasty, when Chán was favoured by the imperial court and became the largest Buddhist scholl in China, the period of the Tang Dynasty came to be regarded as the "golden age" of Chan. This proliferation is described in a famous saying:
Look at the territory of the house of Tang —
The whole of it is the realm of the Chán school.
During 845-846 Emperor Wu-tsung persecuted the Buddhist schools in China. This persecution was devastating for metropolitan Chan, but the Chan school of Ma-tsu and his likes survived, and took a leading role in the Chan of the later Tang.
This surviving rural Chan developed into the Five Houses of Zen, or five "schools". These were not originally regarded as "schools" or "sects", but historically they have come to be understood that way. 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.

Song dynasty (960–1297)

After the fall of the Tang-dynasty China was in turmoil during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was followed by the Song Dynasty, which established a strong central government. During the Song Dynasty, Chán  was used by the government to strengthen its control over the country, and Chán grew to become the largest sect in Chinese Buddhism. An ideal picture of the Chán of the Tang-period was produced, which served the legacy of this newly acquired status. With the establishment of the Wu-shan (Gozan) system during the Southern Sung the Chinese bureaucratic system entered into Zen temples throughout the country, and a highly organized system of temple rank and administration developed.

 Ming dynasty (1368-1644)

In the Ming Dynasty teachers such as Hanshan Deqing  taught Chán 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.

Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) and modern times (after 1912)

After further centuries of decline during the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912), Chán was revived again in the early 20th century by Hsu Yun, a well-known figure of 20th century Chinese Buddhism. Many Chán teachers today trace their lineage back to Hsu Yun, including Sheng-yen  and Hsuan Hua, 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.

Thiền Buddhism is the Vietnamese name for the school of Zen Buddhism. Thiền is ultimately derived from the Chinese Chán Zōng.
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 figures 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  Buddhism in Korea 

Seon was gradually transmitted into Korea during the late Silla period (7th through 9th centuries) as Korean monks of predominantly Hwaeom and Consciousness-only 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. Mazu's successors had numerous Korean students, some of whom returned to Korea and established the nine mountain 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 (1158–1210), who established a reform movement and introduced kōan practice to Korea. Jinul established the Songgwangsa 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, Taego, Gihwa and Hyujeong, 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, 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  Buddhism in Japan and Japanese Zen

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 (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.

Muromachi (or Ashikaga) (1336-1573)

During the Muromachi period the Rinzai school was the most successful of the schools, since it was favoured by the Shogun. Rinzai was organized in the Gozan system. This system was extended throughout Japan, effectively giving control to the central government, which administered this system. The Rinka monasteries, primarily found outside the cities in rural areas, had a greater degree of independence. The O-to-kan lineage, that centered on Daitoku-ji, also had a greater degree of freedom. A well-known teacher from Daytoku-ji was Ikkyū. Another Rinka lineage was the Hotto lineage, of which Bassui Tokushō is the best-known teacher.
Soto too spread out over Japan. Gasan adopted the Five Ranks of Tung-shan as a fit vehicle to explain the Mahayana teachings.

Azuchi-Momoyama (1573-1600) and Edo (or Tokugawa) (1600-1868)

After a period of war Japan was re-united in the Azuchi–Momoyama period. This decreased the power of Buddhism, which had become a strong political and military force in Japan and was seen as a threat by the ruling clan. Neo-Confucianism gained influence at the expense of Buddhism, which came under strict state control. Japan closed the gates to the rest of the world. New doctrines and methods were not to be introduced, nor were new temples and schools. The only exception was the Ōbaku lineage, which was introduced in the 17th century during the Edo period by Ingen, a Chinese monk.
 Meiji Restoration (1868-1912) and Imperial expansionism
During the Meiji period (1868–1912) Japan abandoned its feudal system and opened up to Western modernism. Shinto became the state religion, and Buddhism was coerced to adapt to the new regime. Rinzai and Soto Zen chose to adapt, with embarrassing consequences when Japanese nationalism was endorsed by the Zen institutions. War endeavours against Russia, China and finally during the Pacific War were supported by the Zen establishment.
Within the Buddhist establishment the Western world was seen as a threat, but also as a challenge to stand up to. Parties within the Zen establishment sought to modernize Zen in accord with Western insights, while simultaneously maintaining a Japanese identity. Present time (after 1945)
Interest in Zen grew in the West after World War II. Westerners such as Philip Kapleau and the Dutchman Janwillem van de Wetering went to Japan to study Zen. Japanese teachers came to the West to share Zen practice and philosophy.

[edit] Contemporary Zen organisations

The traditional schools of Zen in contemporary Japan are the Sōtō, Rinzai, and Ōbaku. 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; this has substantial overlap with the traditional Five Mountain System. Besides these there are modern Zen organisations which have especially attracted Western lay followers, namely the Sanbo Kyodan and the FAS Society.

Zen in the Western world  Buddhism in the West

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 began to reach a significant level. Especially Japanese Zen has gained popularity in the West. The various books on Zen by Reginald Horace Blyth, and Alan Watts published between 1950 and 1975, contributed to this growing interest in Zen in the West, as did the interest from beat poets as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder..

 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  Japanese Zen 

In North America, the Zen lineages derived from the Sanbo Kyodan school are the most numerous. 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. The most widespread are the lineages founded by Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi and the White Plum Asanga. Maezumi's successors include Susan Myoyu Andersen, John Daido Loori, Tetsugen Bernard Glassman, Nicolee Jikyo McMahon, Joan Hogetsu Hoeberichts, and Charlotte Joko Beck.

The San Francisco Zen Center, for Sōtō practice, was established by Shunryu Suzuki. In 1967 it established the first Zen Monastery in America, called Tassajara, in the mountains near Big Sur.
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   Chinese Chán

Hsuan Hua was the first Chinese master to teach Westerners in North America. He 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.
The Fo Guang Shan organization, which has branches worldwide, also belongs to the Chán 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] Zen teachings

[edit] Pointing at the moon

Zen teachings can be likened to "the finger pointing at the moon".[30] Zen teachings point to the moon, awakening, the realization of the nature of reality, which is devoid of independently existing "things". But the Zen-tradition also warns against taking its teachings, the pointing finger, to be this insight itself:[31]
Wujin Chang, a nun, asked the Sixth Zen patriarch, Hui Neng, for help in understanding the Mahanirvana Sutra. The master answered that he could not read, but if the nun would read it aloud for him, he would do his best to help her.
The nun then asked, "If you can't even read the words, how can you understand the truth behind them?"
"Truth and words are unrelated. Truth can be compared to the moon," answered Hui Neng, pointing to the moon with his finger, "And words can be compared to a finger. I can use my finger to point out the moon, but my finger is not the moon, and you don't need my finger in order to be able to see the moon".[web 2][b]
This warning against confusing the finger and the moon resembles the Diamond-sutra:
[E]very disciple who is seeking Anuttara-samyak sambhodi should discard, not only conceptions of one's own selfhood, other selves, living beings and a Universal Selfhood, but should discard, also, all ideas about such conceptions and all ideas about the non-existence of such conceptions.
While the Tathagata, in his teaching, constantly makes use of conceptions and ideas about them, disciples should keep in mind the unreality of all such conceptions and ideas. [32]

[edit] Polarities

Zen is characterised by a set of polarities[33]: absolute-relative,[34] Buddha-nature - sunyata,[35] sudden and gradual enlightenment.[36]

[edit] Absolute-relative

The Prajnaparamita-sutras and Madhyamaka emphasized the non-duality of form and emptiness: "form is emptiness, emptiness is form", as the heart sutra says.[34] This was understood to mean that ultimate reality is not a transcendental realm, but equal to the daily world of relative reality. This idea fitted into the Chinese culture, which emphasized the mundane world and society. But this does not tell how the absolute is present in the relative world:
To deny the duality of samsara and nirvana, as the Perfection of Wisdom does, or to demonstrate logically the error of dichotomizing conceptualization, as Nagarjuna does, is not to address the question of the relationship between samsara and nirvana -or, in more philosophical terms, between phenomenal and ultimate reality [...] What, then, is the relationship between these two realms?[34]
This question is answered in such schemata as the Five Ranks of Tozan[37], the Oxherding Pictures, and Hakuin's Four ways of knowing.[38]

[edit] Buddha-nature and sunyata

When Buddhism was introduced in China it was understood in terms of its own culture. Various sects struggled to attain an understanding of the Indian texts. The Tathāgatagarbha Sutras and the idea of the Buddha-nature were endorsed, because of the perceived similarities with the Tao, which was understood as a transcendental reality underlying the world of appearances. Sunyata at first was also understood as pointing to transcendental reality.[39]
The Tathāgatagarbha-sutras state that every living being has the potential to realize awakening. Hence Buddhism offers salvation to every-one, not only to monks or those who have freed themselves almost completely from karma in previous lives. But it can also be understood as the primordial reality from which phenomenal reality springs.
The doctrine of the Buddha-nature asserts that all sentient beings have Buddha-nature (Skt. Buddhadhātu, "Buddha Element", "Buddha-Principle"). The term points to prajñā, insight into the three characteristics, but can also point to a transcendental reality underneath the world of appearances.[40]
Sunyata points to the "emptiness" or no-"thing"-ness of all "things". Though we perceive a world of concrete and discrete objects, designated by names, on close analysis the "thingness" dissolves, leaving them "empty" of inherent existence.[41] The Heart sutra, a text from the prajnaparamita-sutras, articulates this in the following saying in which the five skandhas are said to be "empty":
"Oh, Sariputra, Form Does not Differ From the Void,

And the Void Does Not Differ From Form.
Form is Void and Void is Form;
The Same is True For Feelings,

Perceptions, Volitions and Consciousness".[web 4]
The five skandhas are also mentioned in the Lankavatara-sutra:
The Citta dances like a dancer; the Manas resembles a jester; the [Mano-]vijnana together with the five [Vijnanas] creates an objective world which is like a stage.[web 3][c]
The teachings on the five skandhas belong to the central teachings in the Tripitaka. They form a subdivision of the Samyutta Nikaya.
The Yogacara explains this "emptiness" in an analysis of the way we perceive "things". Everything we conceive of is the result of the working of the five skandhas: perception, feeling, volition and discrimination.[d] The five skandhas together create consciousness. The "things" we are consciousness of are "mere concepts", not 'das Ding an sich'.[43]
It took Chinese Buddhism several centuries to realize that sunyata does not refer to an essential transcendental reality underneath or behind the world of appearances.[44] The influnece of those various doctrinal and textual backgrounds is still discernable in Zen. Zen teachers still mention the Buddha-nature, but the Zen tradition also emphasizes that Buddha-nature is Sunyata, the absence of an independent and substantial "self".[44]

[edit] Sudden and gradual enlightenment

In Zen Buddhism two main views on the way to enlightenment are discernable: sudden and gradual enlightenment. Early Chán recognized the "transcendence of the body and mind", followed by "non-defilement [of] knowledge and perception", meaning sudden insight into the true nature followed by gradual purification of intentions.[45]
In the 8th-century the Ch'an-history was effectively re-fashioned by Shenhui, who placed Hui-neng into prominence and emphasized sudden enlightenment, as opposed to the concurrent Northern School's alleged gradual enlightenment.[46] According to the sudden enlightenment propagated by Shenhui insight into true nature is sudden; there-after there can be no misunderstanding anymore about this true nature. This emphasis is also maintained by the contemporary Rinzai school. In opposition to this, the Soto-school emphasizes silent illumination and the practice of shikan-taza, just sitting.
Chinul, a 12th-century Koran Seon master, emphasized that insight into our true nature is sudden, but is to be followed by practice to ripen the insight and attain full Buddhahood. This is also the standpoint of the contemporary Sanbo Kyodan, according to whom kensho is at the start of the path to full enlightenment.[47]
This gradual cultivation is also recognized by Tozan, who described the Five ranks of enlightenment.[web 5] Other example of depiction of stages on the path are the Ten Ox-Herding Pictures which detail the steps on the Path, and the Four Ways of Knowing of Hakuin.[38] This gradual cultivation is described by Chan Master Sheng Yen as follows:
Ch'an expressions refer to enlightenment as "seeing your self-nature". But even this is not enough. After seeing your self-nature, you need to deepen your experience even further and bring it into maturation. You should have enlightenment experience again and again and support them with continuous practice. Even though Ch'an says that at the time of enlightenment, your outlook is the same as of the Buddha, you are not yet a full Buddha.[48]
When the so-called Southern School placed emphasis on sudden enlightenment, it also marked a shift in doctrinal basis from the Lankavatara-sutra to the prajnaparamita-tradition, especially the Diamond Sutra. The Lankavatara-sutra, which endorses the Buddha-nature, emphasized purity of mind, which can be attained in gradations. The Diamond-sutra emphasizes sunyata, which "must be realized totally or not at all".[49] Once this dichotomy was in place, it defined its own logic and rhetorics, which are also recognizable in the distinction between Caodong (Soto) and Lin-ji (Rinzai) chán.[50]

[edit] The Bodhisattva ideal

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.[51][e]
The Bodhisattva-ideal is a central theme in the prajnaparamita-sutras.[52] The Diamond Sutra tells
... men and women [how] to follow the Bodhisattva Path and [...] how they should proceed.[web 6]
Part of this Bodhisattva-ideal are the Paramitas, which are also being mentioned in the Diamond Sutra: Dāna (generosity, giving of oneself), Sīla (virtue, morality, proper conduct), Khanti (patience, tolerance, forbearance, acceptance, endurance), Viriya (energy, diligence, vigour, effort), Dhyana (meditation, tranquility), Paññā (wisdom, insight).[32][f]

[edit] Zen scripture

[edit] The role of scripture in Zen

A review of the early historical documents and literature of early Zen masters clearly reveals that they were well versed in numerous Mahāyāna Buddhist sūtras.[4] Yet Zen is often pictured as anti-intellectual. This picture of Zen emerged during the Song Dynasty (960–1297), when Chán became the dominant form of Buddhism in China. The Chán of the Tang Dynasty, especially that of Mazu and Linji with it's emphasis on "shock techniques", in retrospect was seen as a golden age of Chán.[6] This picture has gained great popularity in the west in the 20th century, especially due to the influence of D.T. Suzuki.[53] This pictured has been challenged, and changed, since the 1970's by modern scientific research on Zen.[54][55][6][56][57][58]
The Zen-tradition, especially Rinzai-Zen, says to give a direct transmission of insight, and stresses the impossibily to give any positive statement of this insight.[9] This is famously worded in a 12th century[59] stanza, attributed to Bodhidharma:[g]
A special transmission outside the scriptures,

Not founded upon words and letters.[h]
By pointing directly to [one's] mind,

It lets one see into [one's own true] nature and [thus] attain Buddhahood.[60]
An example of this non-dependence on words and scripture in 9th century China is Te-shan (Tokusan 780-865).[61] He became famous for burning his commentaries on the Diamond-sutra, when he realized that his attachment to these commentaries had become a stumbleblock on his way to gaining insight.[62][i]
Hisamatsu states it more bluntly:
From the Zen perspective, scriptures are nothing but scraps of paper for wiping up filth.[64][j]
Masao Abe points out that the role of the intellect in the understanding of Zen should not be misunderstood:
It is clear that Zen is not a philosophy. It is beyond words and intellect and is not, as in the case of philosophy, a study of the processes governing thought and conduct, nor a theory of principles or laws that regulate people and the universe. For the realisation of Zen, practice is absolutely necessary. Nevertheless, Zen is neither a mere anti-intellectualism nor a cheap intuitism nor is it an encouragement to animal-like spontaneity. Rather, it embraces a profound philosophy. Although intellectual understanding cannot be a substitute for Zen's awakening, practice without a proper and legitimate form of intellectual understanding is often misleading.[66]
Arokiasamy warns against this
... misleading notion about Awakening which holds that Zen and Awakening are non-intellectual [...] This arises not only from misconstruing the nature of language as merely literal, descriptive and representational but also misunderstanding the nature of Awakening as a literal seeing into reality as such".[67]
The importance given to Zen's non-reliance on written words is also often misunderstood as an opposition to the study of Buddhist texts. However, Zen is deeply rooted in the teachings and doctrines of Mahāyāna Buddhism[68][k][4][l], and gradually developed its own literature. What the Zen tradition emphasizes is that enlightenment of the Buddha came not through conceptualization, but rather through direct insight:
Despite its teaching of “no dependence upon words and letters,” Chan did not reject the scriptures of the Buddhist canon, but simply warned of the futility of relying on them for the attainment of emancipating insight. The sacred texts — and much more so the huge exegetical apparatus that had grown up around them in the older scholastic schools — were regarded as no more than signposts pointing the way to liberation. Valuable though they were as guides, they needed to be transcended in order for one to awaken to the true intent of Śākyamuni’s teachings.[web 7]

[edit] Grounding Chán in scripture

The early Buddhist schools in china were each based on a specific sutra. At the beginning of the Tang Dynasty, by the time of the Fifth Patriarch Hongren (601–674), the Zen school became established as a separate school of Buddhism.[70] It had to develop a doctrinal tradition of its own to ascertain its position[8], and to ground it's teachings in a specific sutra. Various sutra's were used for this: the Lankavatara Sutra, the Diamond Sutra, the Platform Sutra.[4] Subsequently, the Zen tradition produced a rich corpus of written literature which has become a part of its practice and teaching.
The growing Chán tradition also faced the challenge to put it's teachings into words, to bolster it's identity and to applicate it in formal teaching settings, without losing the central insight into the "suchness" of reality.[4] One solution to this was the shift of emphasis from the recorded sayings of the historical Buddha, to the sayings of living Buddhas, namely the Chán masters.[71][72] In time, these sayings, from the so-called "encounter-dialogues" between masters and students, but also from sermons, became codified and formed the basis of typical Zen-genres, namely the "yü-lü" (recorded sayings) and the classic koan-collections. These too became formalised, and as such became a subject of disputes on the right way to teach Zen and the avoidance of dependence on words.[73]

[edit] Lankavatara Sutra

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".[74] 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).[75] 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).

[edit] Diamond Sutra

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.[76]
The reasons for this shift are not clear. Whalen Lai writes:
Up to that point [Shenhui (670–762)], the school did not call itself Chan (meditation), a rather colorless name. It was in fact still looking for a name, and the custom then was to tie a new teaching to a sutra. Huike used the Srimala sutra, but Daoxin later drew inspiration from the Awakening of Faith. Members of the East Mountain Teaching, realizing that the Awakening of Faith was a sastra, came up with the next best; they conjured up a lineage of Lankavatara sutra masters, this being the sutra that informed the Awakening of Faith. Shenhui then perpetuated the myth that Huineng favored the Diamond Sutra. Actually, none of these labels really indentifies the school’s ideological affiliation, because this tradition apparently never used one sutra to legitimize itself.[77]
Kalupahana does see a struggle to give clues to students about ultimate reality, without going back to scripture (e.g. the Lankavatara-sutra). According to him, the use of kung-an's served this role. [78] The prajnaparamita-sutras are a reaction against the early Buddhist philosophical schools, especially the realistic approach of the Sarvastivadins[m], and a return to the notion of non-substantiality.[81] According to Kalupahana, also in Chán the use of...
...the Vajracchedika represents an attempt to return to the Buddha's teaching, which were gradually becoming infested with absolute and transcendentalist metapfysics.[82]

[edit] Hui-neng's Platform Sutra

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. It was constructed over a longer period of time, and contains different layers of writing.[6]
The Platform Sūtra cites and explains a wide range of Buddhist scriptures: the Diamond Sūtra, the Lotus Sūtra (Saddharma Puṇḍarīka Sūtra), the Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra, the Śūraṅgama Sūtra, and the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra.

[edit] Recorded Sayings and Encounter Dialogue

From the precedent of the Platform Sutra developed the "yü-lü" genre, the recorded sayings of the masters, and the encounter dialogues. The best-known example is the "Lin-ji yü-lü".[web 8] These recorded sayings are not verbatim recordings of the sayings of the masters, but well-edited texts, written down up to 160 years after the supposed sayings and meetings.[83]
This "encounter dialogue"-genre developed into various collections of kōans.

[edit] Japanese scriptures

The Japanese Zen-tradition also developed a corpus of it's own, such as theShōbōgenzō of Dōgen Zenji. But also Hakuin, one of the most famous Rinzai-teachers, produced a corpus of written texts.

[edit] Zen practice

Centrally to Chán-practice is dhyana or meditation. In the Lin-ji (Rinzai) school this is supplemented with kōan-study.

[edit] Zen meditation

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".

[edit] Sitting meditation

Venerable Hsuan Hua meditating in the Lotus Position. Hong Kong, 1953.
Sitting meditation 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).[web 9] 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"[web 10] and the "Universally Recommended Instructions for Zazen".[web 11]
At the beginning of the Song Dynasty, practice with the kōan method became popular, whereas others practiced "silent illumination."[84] This became the source of some differences in practice between the Linji and Caodong traditions.

[edit] 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.

[edit] Kōan practice

Chinese character for "nothing", Chinese: (Japanese: mu). It figures in the famous Zhaozhou's dog kōan
A kōan, literally "public case", is a story or dialogue, describing an interaction between a Zen master and a student. These anecdotes give a demonstration of the master's insight, characterised by uncoventional responses and behaviour. This unconventionality is meant to emphasize the non-conceptional insight that the Buddhist teachings are pointing to. Koans can be used to provoke the "great doubt", and test a student's progress in Zen practice.
To Zen Buddhists the kōan is "the place and the time and the event where truth reveals itself"[85], unobstructed by the oppositions and differentiations of language. Answering a kōan requires a student to let go of conceptual thinking and of the logical way we order the world, so that insight into sunyata arises naturally and spontaneously in the mind. But this does not mean that words are useless, as is demonstrated already by the mere fact that koans are words:
[T]he way to satori is not through dependence upon words, even if they be words of the Buddha or past Masters; however, one should not reject words, for, imperfect as they are, they are the only means we have of attaining enlightenment. They should use the words and ideas contained in the koans to reach satori, but they should never confuse the two. Conceptualizations, words, logic and reason are means whereby one attains enlightenment, but they must not be equated [w]ith enlightenment.[web 12]
Kōans and their study developed in China within the context of the open questions and answers of teaching sessions conducted by the Chinese Zen masters. The recorded encounter dialogues, and the koan collections which derived from this genre, mark a shift from solitary practice to interaction between master and student:
The essence of enlightenment came to be identified with the interaction between masters and students. Whatever insight dhyana might bring, its verification was always interpersonal. In effect, enlightenment came to be understood not so much as an insight, but as a way of acting in the world with other people[86]
This mutual enquiry of the meaning of the encounters of masters and students of the past gave students a role model:
One looked at the enlightened activities of one's lineal forebears in order to understand one's own identity [...] taking the role of the participants and engaging in their dialogues instead[87][n]
Koan practice developed from a literary practice, styling snippets of encounter-dialogue into well-edited stories. It arose in interaction with "educated literati".[88] There were dangers involved in such a literary approach, such as fixing specific meanings to the cases.[88] Dahui Zonggao is even said to have burned the woodblocks of the Blue Cliff Record, for the hindrance it had become to study of Chán by his students[89]
Today, the Zen student's mastery of a given kōan 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 kōan 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 kōan, practitioners are expected to demonstrate their understanding of the kōan 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 kōans, written by experienced teachers, that can serve as a guide. These commentaries are also of great value to modern scholarship on the subject. Kōan-inquiry may be practiced during sitting meditation (zazen), walking meditation (kinhin), and throughout all the activities of daily life. Kōan 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.[90]

[edit] Zen 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.[citation needed]
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?)(chapter 25 of the Lotus Sutra[web 13]), 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.

[edit] Zen Narratives

Modern scientific research on the history of Zen discerns three main narratives concerning Zen, its history and its teachings: Traditional Zen Narrative (TZN)[91][web 14], Buddhist Modernism (BM)[92], Historical and Cultural Criticism (HCC)[93].

[edit] Traditional Zen Narrative (TZN)

The Traditional Zen Narrative developed in phases in China during the Tang Dynasty and the beginning of the Song Dynasty, from the 7th to 11th century. It became dominant during the Song Dynasty, when Chán was the dominant form of Buddhism in China, due to support from the Emperial Court.[6]
Its main phases were the development of the traditional Chan lineage, culminating in the "Transmission of the Lamp"-genre[94], the encounter dialogue culminating in the kōan collections[95], and the "climax-paradigm of the Song period, when Chan became the dominant Buddhist school in China[96].
The Traditional Zen Narrative bases its self-understanding especially on the encounter stories of the well-known teachers of the later Tang-period, such as Mazu Daoyi and Linji.[97] This period is seen as the "golden age" of Chan, a "romantic coloring"[98] discarded by McRae:
"...what is being referred to is not some collection of activities and events that actually happened in the 8th through 10th centuries, but instead the retrospective re-creation of those activities and events, the imagined identities of the magical figures of the Tang, within the minds of Song dynasty Chan devotees"[99][100][...]"This retrospective quality pervades the Chan tradition. Time and again we find we are dealing, not with what happened at any given point, but with what people thought happened previously"[101]

[edit] Buddhist Modernism (BM)

In the 20th century the Traditional Zen Narrative was transformed into a modern narrative, due to the power of the Western colonial forces and the modernisation of Japan[102][103], and the popularization in the Western world.[104]

[edit] Romanticism and transcendentalism

As a consequence of the adaptation of Zen to the modern world a romantic idea of enlightenment as insight into a timeless, transcendent reality has been popularized, especially by D.T. Suzuki[105][106], who, though known as a Zen Buddhist, was also influenced by Theosophy[107]. Further popularization was due to the writings of Heinrich Dumoulin[108][109][110]. Dumoulin viewed metaphysics as the expression of a transcendent truth, which according to him was expressed by Mahayana Buddhism, but not by the pragmatic analysis of the oldest Buddhism, which emphasizes anatta[111]. This romantic vision fits into Western romantic notions of self-realization and the true self, being regarded as a substantial essence being covered over by social conditioning.

[edit] Historical and Cultural Criticism (HCC)

Contemporary research on Buddhism has shed new light on the history of Chan and Zen.
Since the 1960s the scientific research on Zen has created another narrative of Zen[112]. The "grand saga"[113] of Zen appears not to be an accurate historical documentation, but a skillfully created narrative, meant to lend authority to the Zen school.[114] The consequences of this critical narrative seem hardly to be recognized in the Western world[115][web 15].

[edit] Enlightenment as timeless transcendence

The romantic notion of enlightenment as a timeless insight into a transcendental essence has been thoroughly criticized.[116] According to critics it doesn't contribute to a real insight into Buddhism:
"...most of them labour under the old cliché that the goal of Buddhist psychological analysis is to reveal the hidden mysteries in the human mind and thereby facilitate the development of a transcendental state of consciousness beyond the reach of linguistic expression[117].

[edit] Teacher scandals

The introduction of Zen in the West has been accompanied by problems which seem to be connected to this "grand saga". The teacher scandals which have occurred in Western Zen have been explained as being caused by a misinterpretation of the meaning of dharma transmission and the position of a roshi.
In Western Zen dharma transmission is highly esteemed. In the Japanese monastery system dharma transmission is a formal notification that someone is fully qualified to take a leading role in this system[118][119] In the USA and Europe dharma transmission is linked to the unofficial title roshi, older teacher. In the Western world roshis have been given an archetypal status as wise old man, someone who has realized an infallible insight into the true self, and a pefect personality. In daily life this appears to be an idealized view, give the repeated cases of abuse of power, and financial and sexual misbehaviour.[120][121]

[edit] Zen and World War II

Japanese Zen organisations supported Japanese nationalism and its endeavours during the Pacific War. This support has been made widely known in the Western world by Brian Victoria in his groundbreaking study Zen at War, though in Japan this was already more common knowledge.[122] D.T. Suzuki too supported these endeavours.[123][124][125] This Japanese nationalism, and the Japanese uniqueness was also a reaction to perceived western imperialism during the 19th centuryThe popular idea of Zen is that it's, like, Japanese Dada, with kung fu monks. I regret that the popular idea is a tad romanticized.

The nerdy answer to the question What is Zen? 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 could be translated "Meditation Buddhism."
Here I want to provide a bare-bones introduction to Zen. Note that what follows is barely a handshake. I will use the word "Zen" for all schools, just to keep it simple.
This article also assumes you know what Buddhism is. If you aren't sure, read the Introduction to Buddhism.

A Very Brief Zen History

Zen began to emerge as a distinctive school of Mahayana Buddhism when the Indian sage Bodhidharma (ca. 470-543) 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. 2nd century CE) and Yogacara (ca. 3rd century CE) also played huge roles in the development of Zen.
Under the Sixth Patriarch, Huineng (638-713), Zen shed most of its vestigial Indian trappings, becoming more Chinese and more, well, Zennish. Some consider Huineng, not Bodhidharma, to be the true father of Zen. 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, 618-907. The masters of this Golden Age still speak to us 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 7th century. A series of teachers transmitted Zen to Korea during the Golden Age. Eihei Dogen (1200-1253), 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 establishing itself in North America, Europe, and elsewhere.

How Zen Defines Itself

Bodhidharma's definition:

A special transmission outside the scriptures;
No dependence on words and letters;
Direct pointing to the mind of man;
Seeing into one's nature and attaining Buddhahood.

Zen is sometimes called "the face-to-face transmission of the dharma outside the sutras." 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. A genuine Zen teacher can trace his or her lineage of teachers back to Bodhidharma, and before that to the historical Buddha, and 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 transmission from another teacher is considered a serious defilement of Zen.
While we're talking about teachers, I should mention Zen masters. In my experience, the phrase "Zen master" is hardly ever heard inside Zen. Popular notions of "Zen master," however smarmy, roughly correspond to what a Zen teacher is. The title "Zen master" in Japanese, "zenji," is only given posthumously. In Zen, living Zen teachers are called "Zen teachers." An especially venerable and beloved teacher is called "roshi," which means "old man." I'm not sure how that works when the teacher is a woman, however. In any event, if you ever run into someone who advertises himself as a "Zen master," be skeptical.
Bodhidharma's definition also says that Zen is not an intellectual discipline you can learn from books. Instead, it's a practice of studying mind and seeing into one's nature. The main tool of this practice is zazen.

Zen is perhaps the most well-known school of Buddhism in America. Its concepts have been influential on western society since the latter half of the 20th century. There are about 9.6 million Zen Buddhists in Japan today, and numerous Zen groups have developed in North America and Europe within the last century.

Zen Beliefs and Practices

Both the words "Zen" (Japanese) and "Ch'an" (Chinese) derive from the Sanskrit word Dhyana, meaning "meditation." Zen Buddhism focuses on attaining enlightenment (bodhi) through meditation as Siddharta Gautama did. It teaches that all human beings have the Buddha-nature, or the potential to attain enlightenment, within them, but the Buddha-nature been clouded by ignorance. To overcome this ignorance, Zen rejects the study of scriptures, religious rites, devotional practices, and good works in favor of meditation leading to a sudden breakthrough of insight and awareness of ultimate reality. Training in the Zen path is usually undertaken by a disciple under the guidance of a master.

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. Its philosophical background can be found in the Lankavatara Sutra, which was composed in the 4th century or earlier in India. As it developed in China, it was also influenced by Taoist concepts. This is especially apparent in the Ch'an emphasis on spontaneity and naturalness in all things, which significantly influenced Chinese painting, writing, and other arts.

Zen in Japan

Zen Buddhism arrived in Japan as early as the 7th century, but did not develop significantly there until the 12th century. Zen has since been an important force in Japan. It has had considerable influence on Japanese culture, "reaching far beyond the temple and entering into cultural and social areas of all kinds, including gardening, ink painting, calligraphy, the tea ceremony, and even military strategies. " {2} Zen priests played an important role in the political unrest of 16th century Japan, both serving as diplomats and administrators and preserving Japanese cultural life.

Schools within Zen Buddhism

Several schools of Zen developed in China in the 9th century. The Rinzai (Chinese, Lin-chi) sect of Zen was introduced to Japan by the Chinese priest Ensai in 1191. Rinzai Buddhism emphasizes the use of koans, paradoxical puzzles or questions that help the practitioner to overcome the normal boundaries of logic. Koans are often accompanied by shouts or slaps from the master, intended to provoke anxiety leading to instant realization of the truth. Unlike the Ch'an schools in China, Ensai also taught that Zen should defend the state and could offer prayers and incantations. "These teachings influenced the warrior class and led to a Zen influence over the martial arts of archery and swordsmanship." {3}
Soto Buddhism (Chinese, Ts'ao-tung) is another Zen sect that was transmitted from China to Japan. It arrived in Japan in 1227 upon the teacher Dogen's return from China. Soto emphasizes 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.