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Lesson 3  Traditional Religion|Zen

 

Zen Buddhism[‘T]‚Ƃ͉½‚©

A school of Mahayana Buddhism[‘åæ•§‹³]. Zen Buddhism was founded in the sixth century by Bodhidharma[•ì’ñ’B–] in India. It was soon introduced into China, where it achieved further development. It was brought to Japan late in the Heian period (794-1185) by Eisai[‰h¼] (1141-1215), the founder of the Rinzaishu sect[—ՍϏ@], and again in the Kamakura period  (1192-1333) by Dogen[“¹Œ³] (1200-1253), the founder of the Sotoshu sect[‘‚“´@]. In addition to these two sects, the naturalized priest Ingen

[‰BŒ³](1592-1673), coming from China, founded the Obakushu sect[‰©Ÿ@@] in the Edo period (1603-1867). Zen Buddhism teaches self-discipline, deep meditation[áґz], and attainment of enlightenment or spiritual awakening[Œå“¹]. It is characterized by its emphasis on kensho[Œ©«], zenkai[‘T‰ú], and samu[ì–±].

Kensho means direct intuitive insight into transcendent truth beyond all intellectual conception. In other words, it is to see with one's mind's eye and recognize the Buddhahood inherent in oneself. Zen Buddhism derived its name from silent meditation [‘T’è], which is a means of attaining this self-realization. Sitting in silent meditation is known as zazen[À‘T].

Zenkai is the Buddhist commandments characteristically interpreted by the Zen sects which hold that the commandments are what an enlightened person would naturally and spontaneously practice.

Samu means labor, especially physical work in everyday life, in which, according to the teachings, transcendent truth can be found. Zen Buddhism has exerted a great influence on shaping of Japanese culture, especially on such arts as flower arrangement and the tea ceremony.        

 

Practice and Enlightenment[‘T‚̏Cs‚ÆŒå‚è]

Zen practice primarily consists of meditation in the lotus posture, known in Japanese as zazen, and the study of koan. Practice within the Soto school emphasizes the sitting meditation of zazen. The Rinzai school also acknowledges the value of zazen; however, it encourages its practitioners to exhaust their thinking in the contemplation of koan like riddle to progress in meditation. The Rinzai school points out several dangers in the Soto emphasis on zazen, such as becoming attached to the practice of sitting or promoting a quietistic asceticism that goes only halfway, refining the mind but not attaining a dynamic breakthrough, and teaches that a perfect and spontaneous realization that does not rely on practice is also possible.

The practices of zazen and koan study are directed toward the inner experience of enlightenment; however, they are not necessarily linked with it in a causal relationship. The enlightenment experience can occur without a specific practice of Zen. On the other hand, practice is not to be regarded as futile, even if years of effort do not culminate in the enlightenment experience. Practice is considered worthwhile in itself.

Zazen is not entirely of Zen origin. Its basic form is taken from the Indian tradition of yoga, which covers a wide range of meditation practices. Among the numerous postures of yoga, the lotus position[Œ‹æææåÀ], regarded as the most perfect posture in yoga, was adopted by the Zen school. The practitioner sits with legs crossed and drawn in, and back perfectly upright. Zen recommends breathing in a natural, rhythmical way with a prolonged exhalation. By shutting out all sense impressions and conscious thinking, the Zen practitioner seeks to attain the highest possible state of mental concentration.

Zazen can also be said to represent the enlightened state of mind itself. This conception is found particularly in the teachings of Dogen and his school. The lotus posture is the external sign of enlightenment, just as the Sakyamuni[Žß‰Þ–´“ò] and all Buddhas sitting in this posture reveal the enlightened Buddha-nature.

The study of questions for meditation, koan[ŒöˆÄ], began in China. The grotesque events, bizarre scenes, exchanges[–â“š] between master and disciple, paradoxical expressions, and words of wisdom that make up the content of the koan stem from the early period of Chinese Zen.

A koan cannot be solved rationally. The practitioner is obliged to hold the koan constantly in mind, day and night. Concentration increases until the tension causes rational thinking to give way under the pressure and a breakthrough occurs. This is the gturn back to the roots of consciousness" that opens the mind to a new way of seeing. Concentration, confrontation with an inescapable situation, and a breakthrough compose the psychological progression in this practice. Because this practice can be traumatic and requires careful monitoring to advance, koan practice cannot be undertaken without the personal guidance of the master in private interviews[“ÆŽQ].

It was the Japanese master Hakuin[”’‰B] who perfected the koan system. His famous koan gWhat is the sound of one hand clapping?h uniquely displays the paradoxical character of the enlightenment experience: gWhen you clap your hands together a sound arises. Listen to the sound of one handh

Enlightenment is a mystical experience that does not lend itself to definition. The inner experience can only be described and interpreted. Certain characteristics are clearly evident in descriptions of enlightenment, and the suddenness of the experience has been set down as one mark of Zen enlightenment. Many accounts of enlightenment describe it as a merging or becoming one with the whole universe. Feelings of ecstasy accompany the experience of total unity or oneness. A surging joy, what Buddhists call edharma rapture[–@‰x]', overcomes the enlightened person who, completely forgetting the self, feels at one with everything. The subjective certainty of such experiences is indubitable; however, when the master acknowledges that the experience is genuine, an immediate awareness of reality has most likely taken place. One who experiences enlightenment is thought to go beyond the trivial self of usual consciousness.

 

The Zen Movement Today[¡“ú‚Ì‘T]

The numerous@writings@and@lectures@in@North@America@and@Europe@of@D.@T.@Suzuki@introduced@Zen@Buddhism@to the Western public and awakened much interest and appreciation for it. Today, scholars in a variety of disciplines carry on the research he began on Zen Buddhism, but perhaps his influence is most strongly felt in the meditation movement of our day.

There are various schools and lineages within Zen Buddhism, and consequently a wide variation in practices. Hybrid forms have developed between schools, and methods are also mixed with those of other branches of Buddhism. Different forms of Zen meditation have found their way to the West, and Zen centers have been established in North America and European countries, especially in Britain, France, and Germany.

Nourished within the great Asian cultures of India and China and reaching maturity in Japan, Zen has found a deep resonance in the West. At a time when technology threatens to dominate the world, Zen awakens a demand among many for spiritual values necessary for human life.

 

Next Lesson@Fundamental thoughts in the Japanese mind\wabi and sabi

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