Welcome to ZenBuddhism.info! A community contributed site focused on providing an in depth resource on Zen Buddhism.
1. 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 the 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), etc.
2. 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 he revealed and provided this way to be freed from karma (psycho-physical) and freely use of it as refuge. The fist purpose of sitting is stilling karma to reach nirvana (no wind, of karma: body and mind: conception, emotion, volition, perception), 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, 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).
3. 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), samadhi (concentration, 定), prajňā (prognosis, 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, 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 Sańgha (Sańgha, Community, 僧/僧伽, is composed of laymen, laywomen, male renouncers, and female renouncers. There are present/visible/local Sańghas and the universal/four-directional (worldwide) Sańgha (Catu-Sańgha, cf. 唐招提寺).
4. 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).
5. 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 with diagram.)
6. 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, 修習, 修養) 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!
7. 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 (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.