History of Zen Buddhism

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Zen Buddhism started in China and spread to Japan (Molloy, 2012). The Chinese Buddhism had many complexities, which helped in creating a counter-balance movement towards simplification. Zen is a Chinese word pronounced as Chan in Japan (Molloy, 2012). For the Chinas Chan sect, there was enlightenment based on the Siddhartha Gautama experience. Siddhartha Gautama was the Buddha, who was considered as the enlightened one because of his mediation practices. The teachings of Buddha are shortened into four Noble truths, which form the basis and a guide to how an individual can live in the world. Buddhism has experienced many modifications and schisms. There are three main branches of Buddhism- the doctrine of elders (the Theravada), the diamond vehicle (the Vajrayana) and the great vehicle (the Mahayana) (Gallois, 2010). However, there are many groups and sects within the branches. The Buddhist canon has many corpora of texts, which are monastic, devotional, and philosophical.

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The Chan movement favored the method of seated meditation. Chan Buddhism is traced back to Bodhidharma, a Buddhist monk who is believed to originate from India to China at approximately 500CE (Gallois, 2010). Bodhidharma is usually seen in mediation having western facial features, an earring, a light bread and swarthy skin (Gallois, 2010). It is believed that he meditated for many years making his legs and hands become weakened. Thus, the Chan embodied Buddha as persistent and patient. Presently, Buddhism has spread its roots to India and to most parts of the world adopting local beliefs and practices. Many people in the West have taken practical and physiological aspects of Buddhism and integrated them into their social and religious practices. Many individuals identify themselves as Buddhist Atheists, Buddhist Jews, and Buddhist Christians (Molloy, 2012).

Fundamental Teachings of Zen Buddhism

In the history of Buddhism, the primary emphasis is on the importance of meditation and its effectiveness as it produces enlightenment. The experience brings unity, new emotions and insights of the art of living: appreciation of everyday life and less concern with death and attaining goals (Molloy, 2012). The most important Chan or Zen teaching is the sitting meditation (Zazen) which is most essential for focusing on the moment and calming the mind. The meditation makes the mind more ideally and peaceful. Zen Buddhism has a law called dharma that encourages living by the dharma that compassion and wisdom, which is true leads to freedom and liberation without suffering. The law has three signs, the I, suffering and change. The signs point that there is nothing that is permanent of fixed in the world, and there is happiness in life. The Noble Truth of suffering teaches that for suffering, it is important to know its cause. It explains that suffering is caused by the sense of I that every person has, leading to the struggle of getting pleasurable things and avoiding painful things. Since the world does not fit in the things that an individual yearns to have, people usually get disappointed and hurt. Thus, suffering can end by coming into harmony with things generally. Thus, people need to do this in the noble eightfold path: right concentration, right mindfulness, right effort, right livelihood, right action, right speech, right thought and right view (Molloy, 2012). The teaching of every individual in Zen Buddhism is to purify one's heart, to cultivate good and not doing any evil. The values of giving, humanity, patience, loving kindness and wisdom are primarily valued. The considerate desire of causing no harm to animals, the world and plants are highly emphasized in the religion. Thus, Zen Buddhism is a very practical religion aiming at assisting people to live peacefully in the world.

The uniqueness of Zen Buddhism

The unique system of Zen Buddhism is meditation as an essential characteristic. Unlike another sect, Zen Buddhists are never interested in the scriptures of Buddhist. They do not have verbalized codes and creeds; their sect is wordless. Their beliefs are only on experience as a final justification for the truth and certainty of their religion. Zen Buddhism focuses the significant experience. It is the approach, which distinguishes it from other forms Buddhism.


Gallois, W. (2010, September 3). Zen history. Retrieved from https://speedypaper.com: https://speedypaper.com/download/122189?pass_key=thisIsBasicPassKeyForFileDownload

Molloy, M. (2012). Experiencing the worlds religions: Tradition, challenge, and change (6th ed.). New York City, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

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