Zen Buddhism

Facts About Zen Buddhism & Its Origin

Zen Buddhism is highly focused on seated meditation as a way to discover the purest state of one’s mind. It is a journey of self discovery by living in the moment. This practice basically offers a venue for a person to trigger their spiritual awareness.

History of Zen

The Zen practice started when the Buddha came to the state of Enlightenment while doing meditation. The Buddha was committed to find the solution to the suffering of the people that he started doing meditation under a tree which allowed him to reach his spiritual awakening.

The Buddha later left details that can help people when addressing their day to day life. These teachings, practices and principles were all in the Dharma Sanskrit. It basically contains teachings on how you should practice meditation, integrate self-control, Buddha-nature and your own understanding and application of these teachings.

Soto Zen and Rinzai Zen

Soto Zen originated from China and was later introduced in Japan by Dogen Zenji. It was after its introduction in Japan when it became more popularly known as the Soto Zen. Soto Zen is mainly focused on practicing sitting meditation. They do not do the meditation to achieve Satori, but instead they are doing it to simply experience the practice.

Rinzai Zen is also from China and was introduced to the Japanese by Myosa Eisai. Unlike Soto Zen, Rinzai Zen aims to reach the state of enlightenment. The school’s Zen teachers ask practitioners to constantly recite koans during meditation. The Rinzai Zen school believes that the koans allow their students to rediscover their true self which can help them in achieving a true spiritual awakening or enlightenment.

Zen Concepts

Mushotoku is a Zen concept that one must achieve in order to realize a genuine Zazen. This involves freeing your spirit of wanting to possess anything. Meaning that one must learn to detach themselves from their materialistic desire and learn to stop seeking personal gratification. If you want to put Mushotoku in practice it is important that you learn to do things without expecting any reward or anything in return.

Hishiryo is a state of consciousness that is beyond your usual thinking self and your non-thinking self. This should be your default level of consciousness while performing Zen meditation. Of course, it is only natural that you get interrupted by some random thoughts during meditation. All you have to do is simply let these interruptions go without dwelling on them. This practice allows us to calm our mind and slowly clear it from any thoughts, allowing us to reach the Hishiryo state of consciousness.

Zanshin is another Zen concept which means complete sensitivity and awareness of your surroundings. This Zen concept is highly utilized in various Japanese arts and disciplines, including Kendo, Budo, sumi-e, Ikebana and chado. This is because Zanshin allows you to calm your mind so you can focus on the now, giving you an absolute awareness of your environment. This concept is used in Budo discipline, enabling you to improve your reaction time during battle without being affected by pain.

Fudoshin is a state of fearlessness and determination. This state of awareness is highly useful for Budo, Judo, Aikido and for practicing Zazen. Even the samurai highly value this concept in their profession. Fudoshin gives you a sense of invincibility allowing you to face any turbulence without disturbing your inner peace or will. According to Tsukahara Bokuden, this kind of mental calmness is not a skill, but rather a symbol of a mature samurai. Practicing Fudoshin keeps you protected from the sickness of the mind called shikai. Shikai is composed of surprise, anger, fear and doubt, which are all considered sickness of the mind when you practice Zen Buddhism.

Mushin is a concept used in martial arts and Zen, also known as the state of absolute mental clarity. This state of awareness can only be achieved once you learn to let go of your pride and your limitations. Mushin teaches you to empty your mind of all your preoccupations, allowing your thoughts to simply live in the now and settle down calmly, so it can provide a clear reflection of your surroundings. This state of mind can only be achieved through constant practice and is highly useful both in battle and in your day to day life.

Satori is the state of spiritual awakening also known as the state of enlightenment. People often confuse enlightenment as a new state of mind, however the teachings say that this is actually the time when a person goes back to its original state of mind. This means that long before you were born your mind is already in the state of enlightenment. Zen Buddhism simply allows you to rediscover this state of awareness.

Zen and Samurais

Zen Buddhism was introduced to the Japanese in the latter part of the 12th century, which led to the opening of Rinzai, the first Buddhist school in the country. It was in the early 13th century, when samurai started trying out Zen meditation through the help of Rinzai masters. They discovered the many benefits of Zen in improving their fighting skills and reconditioning their mind regarding how they view death while they are on the battlefield.

It wasn’t long before Zen became a popular practice among many samurai. Although some samurai were truly dedicated to Zen Buddhism, many samurais later revealed that they are only interested in committing to the Zen meditation practice. These warriors simply saw Zen as a way to improve their abilities as samurai. Among the notable figures who were into Zen includes Musashi Miyamoto a well-known swordsman and ronin and some of the famous 47 ronins from the 18th century.

Zen Buddhism plays a very important role in  the samurai community. In fact, it was one of the primary reasons why Zen Buddhism has a major contribution in the development of Bushido as the basis for a samurai’s way of life.