What is Zen?
Along with the popularity of meditation and yoga, more and more people are interested in Zen (禅). Recently, the English word “Zen,” which excludes aspects of thought, has become very popular. More and more companies are incorporating it into company training. However, few people can explain the concept and outline of Zen. The word “Zen” is an abbreviation for “Zenna(禅那),” which is a transcription of the Sanskrit Dhyana originally in Chinese. Sanskrit is an ancient Indian language. When we say Zen, we mean Zazen or zen religion.
The originator of Zen is the Indian “Bodhidharma”
The origin of Zen dates back to ancient China. The originator of Zen is an Indian Buddhist monk called Bodhidharma. Bodhidharma in Sanskrit is transcribed, and the name is Bodhidharma, and “Dharma” is a word for “law.” Bodhidharma is a person from the 5th to 6th centuries, who systematically spread “Zenna” as a disciple of Buddha across China. Zen passed down by Dharma eventually split into five Zen Buddhist families, such as the Rinzai school and the Soto school. It was transmitted to Japan, where it had a significant influence. More information about Zen in Japan would be described below. Besides, “Daruma Dall,” which has been famous as a lucky charm in Japan, is derived from the legend that Dharma’s limbs disappeared as he continued Zazen.
Furthermore, Zen is a practice method in Buddhism that is similar to meditation performed by combining Zen meditation, and it was already implemented in around 500 BC. It is a well-known Buddhist anecdote that Buddha gained enlightenment while practicing Zen meditation under the Bodhi tree. A Buddhist scripture called “Dhammapada,” which summarizes Buddha’s actions describes Buddha and disciples performing Zen meditation. Dharma was a disciple delivering Buddha’s teachings and was the twenty-eighth disciple.
The basics of teaching Zen
At the root of the teaching of Zen is the idea of Buddhism called Furyumonji(不立文字) in Japanese. It means that Zen’s essence is to convey the learning through practical training, apart from the teaching by letters and words. It is said that this training is one of the “four scriptures” taught by Master Dharma, and these are connected to reach enlightenment.
The purpose of Zen – opening enlightenment
The aim of Zen is to open up enlightenment by practicing “Furyumonji(不立文字).” Enlightenment is the awareness of the Buddhist character within oneself and the separation of body and mind from any attachment. Dogen, a Buddhist monk, described the situation as “dropping of mind and body.” In Zen Buddhism, in addition to Zazen, there is “Samu,” which refers to work such as cleaning and cooking in daily life, as a practice method for enlightenment.
The beginning of Zen Buddhism in Japan
It is said that the idea of Zen entered Japan in the Asuka era, but it did not spread until after the Kamakura era. Next, it explains about Eisai and Dogen, which spread Zen in Japan during the Kamakura period.
Eisai spread the practice of Kanwazen to Rinzai school
A Japanese monk called Eisai (1141-1215) went to the Song Dynasty and brought back the teachings of Southern Song Zen and opened the Rinzai school. Eisai endeavored to promote Zen Buddhism under the patronage of the Shogunate and the Imperial Court. The characteristic of the Rinzai school is the Kanwazen(看話禅) that makes monks sit down while thinking using the Koan(公案). Koan refers to the problem given by the teacher as a practice to gain enlightenment.
Dogen spread the practice of Shikantaza to Soto school
Dogen (1200~1253) also went to the Song Dynasty and brought back the teachings of Soto Zen from China, and opened Soto school. The Soto school continued to expand after Dogen’s death and expanded nationwide while absorbing the temples of the Tendai school and the Shingon school. The Sodo school’s characteristic is that it is a practice called Shikantaza(只管打坐), which has no purpose, thinks nothing, and just sits down.
Zen, which is familiar to Japanese people, is one of the Buddhist pieces of training systematized in China by Dharma, known for his “Daruma-san,” in Japan. Meditating in Zen has been practiced since the Buddha’s day around 2,500 years ago. In modern times Japan, the Zen practice is held at temples all over the country where ordinary people can easily participate.
In addition, Mindfulness derived from Buddhist meditation was born in the United States and is spreading to Japan. Since the purpose of “mindfulness” is not “to gain enlightenment,” but it’s a great thing to be modified with the different eras and various customs.