What is Zen?
Zen is Japanese for meditation, as is the Chinese word Ch'an. It is a form
of Buddhism which
mainly focuses on meditation as means for attaining enlightenment. The teachings and practices
of Zen are directed toward self-realization (realizing the true nature of the mind), and, during
meditation, all dualistic distinctions, such as I/you, subject/object are eliminated. Zen stresses
the uselessness of ritual religious practices for the attainment of enlightenment, and has been
described as "watching the mind," and "a study of the self." Click here for descriptions of
other forms of Buddhism.
Zen teaches the practice of zazen, sitting in meditative absorption as
the shortest, yet also
steepest path to enlightenment. Unlike many other forms of meditation, the aim of zazen is
not to concentrate the mind on a specific object, but to point the mind toward liberation from
all mental habits. During zazen, discursive thinking decreases, and the mind becomes stilled, like
a clear pool of water. It is said that, during zazen, one experiences unordinary physical sensations
and visual perceptions. However, the aim of zazen is not to chase after these experiences which
arise during various stages of progress. The aim of zazen is to exist in the true nature of the mind,
in which distinguishments between "I" and "not-I" no longer exist.
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