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Zen Buddhism for Beginners

Updated: May 11

What does "Zen" mean?

The word “Zen” is widely used in design, popular culture, the commercial world, and everyday life but the true meaning of "Zen" got lost.


Pure Zen is difficult to explain. It simply means to be completely alive. Alive right now and be concerned with what actually is rather than what we think or feel about what is.


Real Zen in its essence is the art of seeing into the nature of one's own being, and it points the way from bondage to freedom.


What is Zen?

  • The essence of Zen Buddhism is achieving enlightenment by seeing one's original mind (or original nature) directly; without the intervention of the intellect.

  • The key to liberation in Zen is simply self-knowledge.

  • To be a human being is to be a Buddha. Buddha nature is just another name for human nature - true human nature.

  • Zen tries to free the mind from the slavery of words and the constriction of logic.

  • The central concept of Zen is meditation.

Is Zen a religion?


Zen is short for Zen Buddhism. It is sometimes called a religion and sometimes called a philosophy.

zen buddhists monks are sitting and meditating zen religion Zen Buddhism
The essence of Zen is meditation, actual practice to explore the depth of your mind.

However, Zen in its purest form, is not a theory, an idea, or a piece of knowledge. It is not a belief or dogma; but rather, it is a practical experience. The essence of Zen is meditation, actual practice to explore the depth of your mind.


Zen is not a moral teaching, it does not require one to believe in anything. A true spiritual path does not tell people what to believe in; rather it shows them how to think; or, in the case of Zen - what not to think.


Zen Buddhism teaches that there is nothing to rely upon but one’s true self. Everyone has the Buddha-nature and the potential to become a Buddha, and yet it is hidden because of our illusions.


Zen practice is dialogic, interactive, “together practice.” In a formal Zen meal, for instance, everyone starts and ends together. In Zen walking meditation, everyone walks together. Sitting meditation or Zazen is done side by side, in a hall, with each period of meditation starting and ending with everyone together.


Was Zen Buddhism originated in Japan?


Zen Buddhism is a mixture of Mahayana Buddhism and Taoism.

Zen Buddhism was brought to China by the Indian monk Bodhidharma in the 6th century CE, under the name of ch’an.

Zen spread to Korea in the 7th century CE and later to Japan in the 12th century CE.


How to become a Zen Buddhist?


If you want to become a Zen Buddhist practitioner, search for "Zen temple near me", contact them, and join the Sangha.


You also do not need to join a Zen temple community, practicing on your own is good enough. There ia a lot of amazing content that can help you on your spiritual journey.


What is the meaning of a Zen Garden?

Zen Gardens have been a part of Japanese culture for over ten centuries. Zen gardens were created as places for monks to meditate and contemplate the teachings of the Buddha.


Zen Gardens symbolize simplicity, self-discipline, and the importance of meditation to find one's true self, undistracted by worldly possessions.


What is Zen Meditation?

meditation brown coushions Japan big hall meditation
Trying to explain or define Zen Meditation or Zazen, by reducing it to a book, to a few definitions, or an article is almost impossible.

Zazen, seated meditation, is the central practice of Zen Buddhism.


Rather than offering temporary solutions to life’s problems, Zen meditation looks to address core issues.


To experience it, one needs meditation. An ordinary mind can only know ordinary concepts and ideas. If one wants to understand and experience extraordinary experiences and ideas, one has to have an extraordinary mind. An extraordinary mind comes about through concentration.

 

Zen teachers say that if you miss the moment, you miss your life. How much of our lives have we missed? Be mindful!

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Zen Buddhism Quotes

 

How does one become a Zen Buddhist monk?


The first step of becoming a Zen monk begins with living at a Zen monastery as a resident for one to two years.


The subsequent steps of the ordination path are:


  • Receiving the Five Precepts

  • Formally becoming a Zen Buddhist and receiving the Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts.

  • A minimum one-year period of intensified training in which the ordained sangha and the postulant discern together whether ordination is appropriate. During this time the Postulant resolves outside commitments, obligations, and debts.

  • Novice priest ordination, a five-year commitment to continuous training at a monastery.

  • After the five-year training period, it may be appropriate to continue ordination training, becoming a full Zen Monk.


The meaning of the Zen Buddhism Symbol.

The most famous Zen symbol or Enso is a circle which is traditionally drawn with only one brushstroke.


The circle symbolizes many things: karma, samsara or the circle of life, impermanence, and absolute liberation from the circle of existence - Nirvana.


Enso can also be seen as a continuity of life – having a brushstroke that begins, continues, and ends.


Four Essential Rules to be More "Zen"


1. Do it completely, slowly and deliberately. Put your mind completely on the task. Don’t move on to the next task until you’re finished the previous (current) one. If you do less, you can do those things more slowly, more completely and with more concentration.

2. Devote time to sitting. In the life of a Zen monk, sitting meditation (zazen) is one of the most important parts of his day. You could use any activity in the same way, as long as you do it regularly and practice being present.

3. Serve others. Zen monks spend part of their day in service to others, whether that be other monks in the monastery or people in the outside world. It teaches them humility, and ensures that their lives are not just selfish, but devoted to others.

4. Think about what is necessary and live simply. There is little in a Zen monk’s life that isn’t necessary. He doesn’t have a closet full of shoes, or the latest in trendy clothes. This is a reminder that there is much in our lives that aren’t necessary, and it can be useful to give some thought about what we really need, and whether it is important to have all the stuff we have that’s not necessary.


Zen Buddhist Books for beginners.

  • Finding the Still Point: A Beginner's Guide to Zen Meditation by John Daido Loori

  • Zen & Karma: Teachings of Roshi Taisen by Roshi Taisen Deshimaru

  • Everyday Zen: Love and Work by Charlotte J. Beck

  • Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryū Suzuki

Do Zen Buddhists drink alcohol?


One of the five main Mahayana precepts is to avoid any intoxicants. Drinking alcohol would be a violation of the fifth precept. The Fifth Precept is interpreted somewhat differently in Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism.


Since Zen Buddhism is a school that belongs to Mahayana Vehicle drinking liquor is considered a "minor" offense, but selling it is a major breach of the precepts. To drink liquor hurts only oneself, but selling hurts others and is a violation of the Bodhisattva vows.



 

“Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine.”– Shunryu Suzuki

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Zen Buddhism Quotes

 

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