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This nOde last updated March 22nd, 2005 and is permanently morphing...
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Zen Buddhism noun
A Chinese and Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism that asserts that enlightenment can be attained through meditation, self-contemplation, and intuition rather than through faith and devotion.
[Japanese zen, from Chinese (Mandarin) chán, meditation, from Pali jhânam, from Sanskrit dhyânam, from dhyâti, he meditates.]
- Zen Buddhist noun
Zen Buddhism, Buddhist sect of Japan and China, based on the practice of MEDITATION rather than on adherence to a particular scriptural doctrine. Its founder in China was the legendary Bodhidharma (5th cent. A.D.), who taught "wall-gazing" and followed the Yogacara or Consciousness School of BUDDHISM, which held consciousness as real, but not its objects. The characteristic Zen teaching of sudden enlightment, or satori, goes back to Hui-neng, an illiterate master of the 7th cent. who defined enlightenment as the direct seeing of one's own "original nature" (i.e., Buddha). The golden age of Zen (8th-9th cent.) developed a unique style of oral instruction, including nonrational elements such as the koan, a subject given for meditation, usually in the form of a paradoxical saying, to test the enlightenment of students of Zen. After the persecution of Buddhism in 845, Zen emerged as the dominant Chinese sect. Two main schools, the Lin-chi (Jap. Rinzai), emphasizing the koan and satori, and the Ts'ao-tung (Jap. Soto), emphasizing the practice of meditation (zazen), were transmitted to Japan in the 14th cent. and greatly influenced politics and culture (e.g., poetry, painting, landscape gardening, the tea ceremony, and flower arranging) before declining in the 16th and 17th cent. Revived in the 18th cent., Zen thought was made known in the West by the writings of D.T. Suzuki, and after World War II it attracted interest in the U.S.
Zen or Ch'an, Buddhist school that developed in China and later in Japan as the result of a fusion between the Mahayana form of Buddhism originating in India and the Chinese philosophy of Taoism. Zen and Ch'an are, respectively, the Japanese and Chinese ways of pronouncing the Sanskrit term dhyana, which designates a state of mind roughly equivalent to contemplation or meditation, although without the static and passive sense that these words sometimes convey. Dhyana denotes specifically the state of consciousness of a buddha, one whose mind is free from the assumption that the distinct individuality of oneself and other things is real. All schools of Buddhism hold that separate things exist only in relation to one another; this relativity of individuals is called their sunyata (voidness), which means not that the world is truly nothing but that nature cannot be grasped by any system of fixed definition or classification. Reality is the tathatâ (suchness) of nature, or the world "just as it is" apart from any specific thoughts about it.
According to tradition, Zen was introduced into China in 520 by Bodhidharma, an Indian Buddhist monk. Its two main sects, Rinzai Zen and Soto Zen, were brought to Japan by Japanese who had studied in China. The Soto seems to put more emphasis on the discipline of za-zen (meditation) while the Rinzai sect makes use of the koan (meditation problem with no logical solution) based on the mondo (dialogues) between the old Zen masters and their students. Students are expected to present their understanding of an incident to the teacher in some nonverbal direct form (for example, by pointing), in a private interview called in Japanese sanzen.
Zen is studied ordinarily in semimonastic communities to which laymen are admitted for limited periods. However, the Zen monastery is more strictly a training school combining meditation with a considerable amount of manual labor. The students in such schools give special attention to the arts and crafts, notably painting, calligraphy, gardening, architecture, and ceremonial tea drinking. In Japan the arts of fencing, archery, and jujutsu are also pursued.
Zen is to religion what a Japanese "rock garden" is
to a garden. Zen knows no god, no afterlife, no good and no evil, as the
rock-garden knows no flowers, herbs or shrubs. It has no doctrine or
holy writ: its teaching is transmitted mainly in the form of parables as
ambiguous as the pebbles in the rock-garden which symbolise now a
mountain, now a fleeting tiger. When a disciple asks "What is Zen?", the
master's traditional answer is "Three pounds of flax" or "A decaying
noodle" or "A toilet stick" or a whack on the pupil's head.
Arthur Koestler (1905-1983), Hungarian-born British author. "A Taste of Zen," Bricks to Babel: Selected Writings with Comments by the Author, Hutchison (1980).
Zen . . . does not confuse
spirituality with thinking about god while one is peeling potatoes.
Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.
Alan Watts (1915-73), British-born U.S. philosopher, author. The Way of Zen, pt. 2, ch. 2 (1957).
Before enlightenment, drawing water and chopping wood.
After enlightenment, drawing water and chopping wood.
Koan, problem with no logical solution assigned to students of Zen Buddhism as a subject for meditation. Koans are intended to break through the limitations of ego and intellect and lead to an intuitive flash of enlightenment. A famous koan is "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"
Two men were arguing about a flag flapping in the wind. "It's the wind that is really moving," stated the first one. "No, it is the flag that is moving," contended the second.
A Zen master, who happened to be walking by, overheard the debate and interrupted them. "Neither the flag nor the wind is moving," he said, "It is MIND that moves."
To figure out something by meditation or by a sudden
flash of enlightenment. Originally applied to bugs, but occasionally
applied to problems of life in general. "How'd you figure out the buffer
allocation problem?" "Oh, I zenned it." Contrast grok,
which connotes a time-extended version of zenning a
system. Compare hack mode.
- from _The New Hacker's Dictionary_ by Eric S. Raymond
Seven elements of beauty in art as influenced by zen:
1. Asymetry - breaking
away from formed perfection.
2. Non-attachment - open-mindedness
3. Naturalness - artless without pretense
5. Limitless silence - inward-looking mind
6. Wizened austerity - like an old tree
7. Profound subtlety
This Zen look on consciousness neatly fits in with Susan Blackmore's (author of _The Meme Machine_) views that consciousness is essentially an entity ''telling stories to itself'' : i.e., it's a ''belief'' or ''self-deception''
John Cage was the father of indeterminism, a Zen-inspired aesthetic which expelled all notions of choice from the creative process.