What is Zen?

Zen Buddhism is a straightforward and practical teaching,
which when properly understood and practiced,
is demonstrably capable of liberating man
from his deep-seated fears and anxieties so he can
live and die with peace and dignity.

--Philip Kapleau, Roshi--

Zen Buddhism

According to the teachings of Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism, Zen is defined as:

  • a special transmission outside the scriptures
  • not relying on words and letters
  • pointing directly to Mind
  • seeing self-nature and attaining Buddhahood.

Zen is a sect of Mahayana Buddhism, established as a teaching in the west after centuries of development in India, China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan.

The Japanese word "Zen" means meditation or Mind; the word "Buddha" means awakened. Zen Buddhism is then the meditation practice of awakening to one's True-mind or Original-mind. "Awakening" or "enlightenment" is to see things as they are, which is to transcend the delusive notion of a discrete, enduring, separate ego or self and realize the "interbeing" that has always been there--being one with all that is.

When we realize through awakening that we have nothing fundamentally to gain or to lose, we can gradually relinquish the need to grasp and cling, as well as the fear and hostility that accompany this need.