The Five-Minute Buddhist Books

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Zen, Part one

Now we start on the form of Buddhism with which I am most familiar, Zen.

The teachings of the Buddha have been handed down from teacher to student. Zen is a lineage tradition; a master has a student who follows him for years, observing and learning at the Master’s feet. There is a one-to-one transmission of the teachings, and it is assumed that the same teaching is handed down in a long unbroken line. The Master comes to know the student very well and vice-versa. This mutual knowledge allows for some very individual ways of teaching.

Around 475 A.D. one of these teachers, Bodhidharma, traveled from India to China and introduced the teachings of the Buddha there. In China Buddhism mingled with Taoism. The result of this combination was the Ch’an School of Buddhism. Around 1200 A.D. Ch’an Buddhism spread from China to Japan where it is called Zen Buddhism.

Zen emphasizes dharma practice and experiential wisdom‚Äîparticularly as realized in the form of meditation known as zazen‚Äîin the attainment of awakening. As such, it de-emphasizes both theoretical knowledge and the study of religious texts in favor of direct individual assessment of one’s own experience.

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