Welcome to ZenBuddhism.info! A community contributed site focused on providing an in depth resource on Zen Buddhism.
What is Zen Buddhism?
- Buddhism (Baudha-Dhamma/Dharma, 仏法、仏道、仏教, Awakened Way) is the teaching of the Buddha (Awakened One, 仏陀、仏、佛、ホトケ、覚者) for all to become buddha (awakened) by practice of the Awakened Way, living awakening in nirvana (nibbāna, nirvāņa,涅槃). He was born to a royal family Kapilavatthu, and named Gotama Siddhattha (Gau-tama Siddha-artha: Skt., Best-cow Objective-attained). His life time has been transmitted in two traditions, Northern/Mahayana Buddhism (北方・大乗仏教, 643-383 B.C.) and Southern/Theravada Buddhism (南方・長老仏教, a century earlier than the former). He was awakened to the Dharma of Dependent Co-origination (縁起=因縁生起), that is, all phenomena are dependently co-originate on causes and conditions (Twelve-libmed Dependent Co-origination is a comprehensive formula of it attributed to the Seven Buddhas including the Buddha Gotama himself). He foresaw the destruction of the world due to selfish karma, he aspired to save the world from destruction and dedicated his whole life to save it by going beyond karma (in the awakened life in nirvana). After his awakening he said to be Tathāgata (Thus-being, being in Thusness, 如来・如去), when he was called "Hey, Gotama!" He was called and identified in many ways - Bhagavān (Fortunate One, 薄迦梵), Sākiya-muni (Thoughtful One from Sākiya, 釈迦牟尼).
What is Zen?
(Zen (禅, from Chinese 禅：chan from Pali jhāna or Sanskrit dhyāna, meditation, to still karma (action, habit, heredity, 業) is the practice of Buddhism throughout daily and the whole life. Its core practice is sitting still in meditation (Zazen : sitting meditation), stilling karma (new and old; physical, verbal, and mental), because all living beings are karma-heirs, -owners, -machines, and –refuged, as the Buddha revealed and provided this way to be freed from karma (psycho-physical) and freely use it as refuge and restart. The first purpose of sitting is stilling karma to reach nirvana (no wind, of karma:karma-wind: body and mind: conception, emotion, volition, perception from habit and heredity), where one can be freed from sin (separation: selfishness, discrimination, destruction, 罪) and fully function holy (wholly wholesome), harmonious, healthy, and happy. From this vantage point of nirvana and awakening, we can cultivate and verify more awakening (''prajňā'': prognosis), freedom, equality, love, and peace, and live limitless life, light, liberation, likeness, and love, serving and saving all. Through concrete control, cultivation, and conditioning of the body, breathing, and brain-bowels (choshin, chosoku, choshin:調身、調息、調心）anyone can reach bliss and joy (dharma-bliss zen-joy: hoki-zen'etsu:法喜禅悦). The holy scripture informs us: When he did not get any food in his begging bowl, the devil advised to go back to get food, but the Buddha did not follow his advice, saying, "I live on joy." The joy is the utmost bliss (gokuraku: 極楽: sukha-vati: bliss-ful: joy-ful: pleasure-filled, usually translated as Pure Land, Heaven, etc., but the original word means the state of heart-world, existential state, not the physical place, cf. the Four Stages of Zen).
What is Buddhism?
- The Buddha was awakened to the Dharma (Norm/form, 法) of all dharmas (forms/phenomena), i.e., Dependent Co-origination (all phenomena interdependently originate on causes and conditions), which is the base of all Buddhist principles and practices like the Triple Learning of sīla, śīla (morality, 戒), ''samādhi'' (concentration, 定), ''prajňā'' (prognosis, 音訳：般若、和訳：恵、慧、知恵、智慧). The most famous ones are the Four Holy Truths (catāri ariya-saccāni, cattari ārya-saccāni, 四聖諦) of suffering (in samsara), origination (of it: craving), cessation (of it: nirvana), and paths (magga, mārga, pațipadā, prațipadā, 道) (Eightfold Holy Path, 八聖道, Sixfold Perfection, of Prognosis, etc.). The Eightfold Holy Path consists of right view, thinking, speech, action, livelihood, striving, mindfulness, concentration, and prognosis (prajňā: insight, wisdom). The Fourfold Effort/Application, 四正勤, is decreasing and stopping bad karma, and increasing and starting good karma. The Fourfold Limitlessness, 四無量, or the Fourfold Pure Life (cattāro Brahma-vihāro, 四梵行・四梵住) consists of friendship, compassion, joy, and equanimity, which is concretely realized by the Fourfold Embracing Matters, 四摂法, of giving, loving speech, beneficial action, and sameness (being/doing same).
- Buddhists treasure and take refuge in the Triple Treasures (ti-ratana, tri-ratna) or the Triple Refuges (ti-saraņa, tri-saraņa) of Buddha, Dhamma (Dharma), and Sangha. The Buddha was called kamma-vādin(actionist, karma-advocate, lit. ‐talker), kiriyā-vādin (functionist, causalist, advocating causality coming from karma), and viriya-vādin(striving-advocate, cf. samana, şŗamana, strivers who were a new different group of strivers beside and paralleled with the traditional Brahmins, as expressed in a stock phrase of samana-brāhmaņa, 沙門婆羅門), which were inherited by his followers (those who believe in karma and kiriyā were accepted into the Sańgha without probation. They were also characterized as analysts (vivajja-vādin). All Buddhists respect their Triple Treasures/Refuges of Buddha, Dharma, and Sańgha (Community) and practice the Triple Learning with their basic scriptures, of all the Triple Baskets (Ți-Pițaka, Tri-Pițaka, 三蔵) of Sutta, Sūtra (Sermon, lit. Scripture, from suture, thread of aphorisms, 経, 経蔵), Vinaya (Discipline, lit. taming, training, 律, 律蔵), Abhi-Dhamma, Abhi-Dharma (Dharma Concordance, Treatises, lit. upon Dharma, 論, 論蔵). Buddhist Sangha (Sańgha, Community, 僧/僧伽, is composed of laymen, laywomen, male renouncers, and female renouncers. There are present/visible/local Sanghas and the universal/four-directional (worldwide) Sańgha (Catu-Sańgha, cf. 唐招提寺: tō-shōdai-ji: Tang-dynasty Sangha Temple).
What is Religion?
- Different peoples defined religion differently in different areas and eras, such as opium of people, the holy, way. Etymologically religion is re-union (re-ligare, Latin). With what? With Way (Dao), God (Dei), Truth (Dharma), etc. Looking back human history and looking for the universal system, we may define it as “reunion with the holy (wholesome whole). Religions evolved from limited to limitless in time, space, scope, value, etc. (primitive to advanced, from local to global, from material to spiritual, tribal, world, universal, etc.). Religions developed from the “way of life” in limited sphere to the “way to life” in limitless scope. Religions devoted themselves to holiness (integration) from selfishness (disintegration, sinfulness, sin=separation, cf. asunder, sundry). As religions are human intuitions and institutions, they can fly high and fall low, supra-mundane and mundane, holy and selfish. Even though religious geniuses generated high ideals and actions, mass institutions degenerate them (due to karma influence). As they involve human practices and problems, they may progress as knowledge and behaviors refined, but regress into ancient and instinctive (by karma). Even after advanced sciences and accommodating ethics, many religions remain in ancient levels or instinctive sins. Religions often wield their own selfish interests and wage wars, calling them justice and holy. Religions even engage in extremes of fanaticism and fundamentalism, encouraging tyranny and terrorism. Religions become irreligious and irresponsible. Religions must become holy (wholly: all-inclusive and wholesome). Practitioners must practice holiness in truth and peace. They must wake up from delusion (of selfishness, delusions and desires: called the triple poisons, due to karma) and cultivate responsible and ethical behaviors. They must accept universal truth as revealed by sciences and follow universal ethic (no killing, stealing, lying, etc.). Otherwise they are not truly holy. Religions should not create problems and sufferings, but rather solve them in genuine holy heart and accountable actions. Religions should accept objective observations in rigorous rules (natural sciences) and follow rational rules of common codes (common ethics). Religions should be holy (wholly wholesome). Or else no practice should claim “religion,” (holiness).
What is the Paradigm Shift?
- "Paradigm" is the fundamental framework of a system (truth-knowledge, ethic-action, science, society, etc.). Unprecedented "human hegemony" with civilization paradigm has changed the global system and caused the global problematique (intertwined problems) of wars, disasters, pollution (air, water, earth by chemical matters, radiation, , ozone hole, global warming, etc.), mass extinction (the sixth one by humankind, the previous five were nature caused), etc. Civilization (= urbanization, from civitas: city, Latin) started 5 millennia (10 sec. according to the Cosmic Calendar) ago as city states (polis, pura, burg, bourg, etc.) with city walls (cf. citadel) and evolved into nation states, discriminating outsiders (farmers, foreigners, forests, fauna & flora, etc.) with the five calamities of delusion, bondage, discrimination, exploitation, and extermination (colonies, classes with captives as slaves, wars, deforestation, genocides, eco-cides, thus collapse of civilizations, etc.). Civilization system has an artificial unilateral (flow of matter & power) pyramidal structure, which cannot be sustained in terms of resources, pollution, extinction, etc. If we continue this paradigm, we can not continue. Essentially ego delusion is the origin of it, extended into social, and ecological systems. So, broadly we need ego, economic, and ecological shift from ego to eco, sin to holiness, nature (to exploit) to nurture (to enhance) into natural cyclical Indra-net culture with cultivation of life & heart for the fivefold bliss of awakening, freedom, equality, love, and peace following the Spiritual (Religious) Revolution 2.5 millennia (5 sec. according to the Cosmic Calendar) ago against the Civilization Revolution. (Please read an article titled Paradigm Shift (PDF) with diagram.)
Zen Buddhism for the Paradigm Shift of Civilization
- Anyone can realize nirvana and awakening, and requested to do so to save the world from destruction, as the Doomsday Clock points only three minutes before it. Now Scientists seem to define our age anthropo-cene dominating and determining the fate of this planet earth into destruction and doom (wars, nukes, terrorism, pollution, global warming, disasters, mega crises, mass extinction, etc.). We must make the paradigm shift (枠組転換) from karma sinfulness to nirvana holiness, only which can make that from unidirectional pyramidal civilization (文明 = urbanization, 都市化, state-ism) of competition for power and matter in suffering to cyclical Indra-net culture (文化, 教養: cultivation 耕作, 修養, 修習, 修行) of cooperation with life and heart in satisfaction, as our global intertwined problems (地球問題群) of population explosion, resource depletion, poverty, starvation, wars, terrorism, global warming, mass extinction, nuclear holocaust, etc. deem to doom. Practice makes perfect everyone’s limitless life good here now and forever for all throughout time and space. Please "come and see" the Awakened Way "good in the beginning, middle, and end" for all!
Zen Buddhism for the Paradigm Shift of Culture
- As cultivation of earth can contribute to the crop, cultivation of personality can contribute to culture. As the Buddha and Buddhists have been striving in cultivation (bhāvana, cf. Fourfold Efforts), Zen is the cultivation of karma (sitting, stilling karma, settling in nirvana, striving in all activities from nirvana for serving and saving all). As the concrete practice of Buddhism (Awakened Way:仏道：覚道) is the Holy Path, Zen is the Path or Way (magga, mārga, pațipadā, prațipadā, do: 道) of caring conducts ("dignified deportment is itself Buddha Dharma, Awakened Forms, in raising a hand and taking a step, eating, cooking, clothing, washing, cleaning, sweeping, etc.), making daily actions as art, and creating culture (tea way, flower way, cooking way, calligraphy way, painting way, garden way, poem way, art way, etc.). Buddhists were persecuted by (Warrior) Emperors in China, Zen Buddhists started to cultivate land, produce food, plant trees, consumed, and cared lands, forests, etc. ecologically sustainably, and subsisting succeeding generations like Ameri-Indians' Cultures. Cultivation and culture are nurturing and enhancing persons, plants, and the planet with all beings intertwined, interdependent, and integrating like the Indra-net, whose crystal balls on all its knots reflect each other limitlessly, making the wholly wholesome way world, where there is no center (hegemon), but all are centerless centers.
The Life of the Buddha
- The Life of The Buddha
About 25 centuries ago in the Himalayan foothills in southern Nepal the Awakened One was born to the royal family of King Suddhodāna (Pure-meal) and queen Māyā (Magical-power), the latter dying through childbirth. His personal name was Siddhattha (Attained-objective) and family name Gotama (Best-cow)[. He was predicted to become a universal king or a great religious leader.
He lived comfortably with fame and fortune, but was deeply concerned about life and death, losing his arrogance of youth, health, and life. He felt compassion for worms being cut by the farmer’s spades and insects being picked up by birds’ beaks. He thus found himself getting into deep meditation already in his childhood.
Even after marriage and having his son Rāhula, and even with the opposition of his family, Siddhattha could not stop renouncing his secular life to solve the problem of life and death. At twenty-nine he left his home and lived as a religious striver and truth seeker. The king Bimbisāra of Magadha, a neighboring country of Kosala to which his kingdom was subject, offered him military power and financial support. He rejected the power of “punishing rods and swords,” and chose truth and goodness.
STRIVING He visited Ālara Kālāma and Uddaka Rāmaputta and soon mastered their state of meditation stages. Finding these practices not yielding peace, wisdom, and complete awakening, he left those teachers and applied himself to hard practices of breath control, fasting, sometimes reducing meals to one rice grain a day, and so forth at Uruvela. Finding mortification to the point of extreme exhaustion not conducive to peace and awakening, he chose a middle way between penance and pleasure. Thanks to a village girl Sujāta’s milk porridge, he summoned up his last power to enter into profound meditation under the assatha tree, later named the Bodhi (Awakening) tree.
After striving in this purifying path and conquering karmas of self delusion and selfish desires in peaceful profound meditation, he was awakened in the Dharma of all dharmas, Norm of all forms, that is, Dependent Co-origination on causes and conditions. In the illumination just before dawn he attained awakening (bodhi) and unconditioned peace (nibbāna, windlessness, of karma). He enjoyed this complete calm, clear, and free state, becoming truth and peace like a tree for many weeks. He was reluctant to go into the world to share it, seeing the people deeply sunk under the layer of karma (the Triple Poisons: delusion, divisiveness, desire) and the state too difficult to realize the Dharma. However, he was moved by the universal truth (contributed to by the Brahma’s beseeching) to share it for fear of the destruction of the world and with aspiration for the salvation of it.
TURNING THE DHAMMA-WHEEL
He chose his previous co-practitioners in the Deer Park as the first candidates for understanding and attainment, as his previous teachers had already passed away. Succeeding in making them realize the Dharma and inviting Yasa and his friends (4 and then 50) as his followers there, he went back to Uruvela and converted three Kassapa brothers, Uruvela Kassapa, Nadī Kassapa, and Gayā Kassapa, and their 1,000 (500, 300, and 200 respectively) followers. At Mt. Gayasīsa, Elephant-head, he delivered a sermon to these new converts, former fire ritualists, that the world is on fire, our senses are on fire. He further went to Rājagaha, the capital of Magadha, and converted king Bimbisāra, Sāriputta, Mahā Moggallāna, and some 250 followers headed by them who were once the followers of Sañjaya, a famous skeptic who later became distinguished among disciples but passed away before the Buddha.
Years after awakening he returned to his native town, Kapilavatthu, and converted his son Rāhula, his half-brother Nanda, his cousin Ānanda who later became his constant attendant, Upāli, Aniruddha, and others. He went to Sāvatthi, the capital of Kosala, and converted King Pasenadi and many others. He visited these two capital cities often.
For forty-five years after his awakening, he was always together with all beings at the lowest level, an itinerant striver with only three pieces of cloth and one begging bowl, traveling in peace, truth, and joy, even when he did not get food in his bowl. At the age of eighty, he went on his last journey to Kusināra. While he was passing the season at Beluvagāmaka, Bamboo Village, he became seriously sick, and to the request of Ānanda for a last sermon, he replied that he told everything, nothing to hide like a teacher’s grip and no intention of ruling the group.
“I am decaying, adding my age, passing the journey of my life. I grew old to the age of eighty. Like an old cart moving with difficulty with the help of leather straps, my cart is supported by straps. When, however, the one who has striven stays in concentration with no characteristics, extinguishing every perception and attached to no characteristics, his body is healthy. Therefore, in this world, make yourself an island to resort to and take refuge in yourself and not in others. Make dhamma an island to resort to and take refuge in dhamma and not in others.”
Then he continued, “My age has ripened. Only a little is left of my life, I shall leave you. I have resorted to myself. O mendicants, stay in striving, mindfulness, and faithfulness to the precepts, concentrated with thoughtfulness, and protect your own mind. The one who strives for this dhamma and vinaya (dicipline) will attain termination of sufferings, discarding the mutation of this life.”
He, however, could survive that rainy season. One fine summer day he took rest in the shadow of a tree after alms rounds, and he expressed his heart: “Pleasing is Vesali! Pleasing was the old Udena tree! Pleasing was the old Gotamaka tree! Pleasing was...” and he uttered, “Beautiful is the world and sweet is life!”
On leaving Vesali he turned around “like an elephant” to see Vesali, and said to Ānanda, “Ānanda, this will be the last view of Vesali for me. Come, Ānanda, let us go to Banda Village.” And with a few people he proceeded to Pava Village, where he was served mushrooms by a smith, Chunda, and became ill, and with this illness he further proceeded to Kusināra.
Arriving at the bank of Hiraññavatī he said,
“Come, Ānanda, spread my bed between the Sāla trees for me. Ānanda, I am tired. I want to take a rest.” Thereupon he laid himself on his right side, putting one foot on the other, keeping his mind right. To the weeping Ānanda in back of him, he said, “Stop, Ānanda. Do not grieve. Do not mourn. Haven’t I told you that we must depart from the beloved, the liked, and be separated from and become different from them. There is no reason to desire non-destruction of the born, existing, composed, and destroying. You have long served me, Ānanda, The Improving One, with compassionate, helpful, comfortable, pure, and immeasurable actions of your body, speech, and mind.”
A religious wanderer, Subhadda, approached Ānanda for permission to ask a question to the Buddha about the real religious teacher, referring to famous leaders of the time, but he was refused by Ānanda thrice, for fear of disturbing the Buddha. The Buddha, however, called him in and said, “Subhadda, I renounced my home for the good (kusala) at twenty-nine years of age. Subhadda, I spent some fifty years since my renunciation. I have walked just in the realm of right way (naya) and truth (dhamma). There is no other ‘striver in the path’ than this.” Subhadda became the last disciple in his lifetime.
Upon hearing the news of his last moment, disciples gathered around him. He turned to them and said, “If there are any questions about dhamma, saṅgha, or practice, ask them now.”
No one asked.
He repeated and said, “You may not ask out of respect. This is not good! Ask as a friend asks another friend.
Ānanda said, “No one seems to have any questions.”
“Now, mendicants, I say, all things in the world are impermanent. Strive without indolence. These are my last words.” The Buddha breathed his last in the depth of night. He betook himself to Mahāparinibbāna, Great Complete Peace.