Zen Buddhism


source: http://www.jref.com/practical/ryoanji_temple_kyoto.shtml

Zen is a school of Mahayana Buddhism notable for its emphasis on practice and experiential wisdom—particularly as realized in the form of meditation known as zazen or sitting meditation - in the attainment of awakening or satori.  Zen Buddhism de-emphasizes both theoretical knowledge and the study of religious texts in favor of direct individual experience of one's own true nature.  

Most of the great samurai practiced Zen.  As a form of Buddhism it reached its height in Japan during the 14th century and in China during the 10th - 13th centuries.  Today, about 8% of Japanese Buddhists identify themselves as Zen practitioners.  In the United States, the dominant form of Buddhism followed is Zen, first introduced by Suzuki (1870-1966). 


A few expressions of Zen and its influences:

Zazen or sitting meditation - goal of achieving awareness of our oneness within the entire universe, a unity that underlies all phenomena.  Sometimes described as an "intuitive lightning flash."  Attempt to still the "wild monkey mind that runs chattering about" and reach the "sky-mind" of Zen emptiness.  Two forms include: 

  1. Soto: silent sitting, as "words" do more to conceal than reveal reality

    • how about setting for several early morning and late evening hours each day in total silence, without any thought of "words" and their associated images!

    • how about walking to class in a "silent walk" each morning!

    • one of the first practices is being able to count ten breathes without letting anything distract you, no thoughts, no feelings 

  2. Rinzai: use silent meditation and the koan or word puzzle or story.   A paradoxical riddle whose "answer" will bring enlightenment.   Of course koans don't always have answers, which makes them so irritating.

"What is the sound of one hand clapping?"

"An ox walks by a window.  First his head goes by, then his neck goes by, then his back goes by.  Why doesn't his tail go by?"

 “What did your original face look like before you were born?”  Hui-neng 7th cent Patriarch of Zen

“Before I sought enlightenment, the mountains were mountains and the rivers were rivers. While I sought enlightenment, the mountains were not mountains and the rivers were not rivers. After I reached satori, the mountains were mountains and the rivers were rivers.”


Paintings and Calligraphy

This Japanese scroll calligraphy of Bodhidharma reads “Zen points directly to the human heart, see into your nature and become Buddha.”  It was created by Hakuin Ekaku (1685-1768)

Architecture. Stupas.  And the example of the Japanese Ryoan-ji Temple

Rock Garden.  Photos of the Ryoan-ji rock garden in Kyoto

Tea Ceremony or Sado.  Video

Poetry.  haiku  On the classical haiku poet Basho (1644-1694)


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