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Zen Buddhism

| Group Profile | Beliefs | Links | Bibliography |

I. Group Profile
  1. Name: Zen Buddhism; the mystical school of Buddhism
    (Zen in Chinese= ch'an-na, which transliterates the sanskrit term dhyana, which means "meditation")
  2. Founder: Siddhartha Gautama, the original founder of the school of Buddhism
  3. Date of Birth:560 BC
  4. Death:460 BC
  5. Birth Place: Southern India
  6. Year Founded: 500 BC
  7. Brief History

    At the age of 29, Siddhartha Guatama was deeply troubled by the suffering he saw around him, and he renounced his privileged life to seek understanding. After 6 years of struggling as an ascetic, he finally achieved Enlightenment at age 35. After this, he was known as the Buddha ("One who is awake"). After all of these experiences, Guatama realized that everything is subject to change and that suffering and discontentment are the result of the attachment to circumstances and things which, by their nature, are not permanent. From that point on, the teachings of Zen Buddhism have been passed down from teacher to students. Around 475 AD, Bodhidharma traveled from India to China and introduced teachings there. (This is why some references cite Bodhidharma as the founding father of Zen Buddhism.)

  8. Sacred or Revered Texts: Non-existent
  9. Cult or Sect: Negative sentiments are typically implied when the concepts "cult" and "sect" are employed in popular discourse. Since the Religious Movements Homepage seeks to promote religious tolerance and appreciation of the positive benefits of pluralism and religious diversity in human cultures, we encourage the use of alternative concepts that do not carry implicit negative stereotypes. For a more detailed discussion of both scholarly and popular usage of the concepts "cult" and "sect," please visit our Conceptualizing "Cult" and "Sect" page, where you will find additional links to related issues.
  10. Size of Group: No approximation is given because many Schools of Zen Buddhism exist


II. Beliefs of the Group

According to Benjamin Radcliff, the key beliefs of Zen focus primarily on The Four Noble Truths and The Noble Eightfold Path.

The Four Noble Truths are:

    • The first truth is the observation that suffering or unhappiness, referred to as dukkha, is pervasive in life. Dukka is explained to be suffering or unhappiness of any kind. (i.e. the desire for wealth or respect, the distaste for bad weather).
    • The second truth explains that the cause of dukkha is craving or clutching at life. Our unhappiness results from our desiring to make life fit our preconceptions of what should be or what we would like it to be.
    • The third truth explains that dukkha can be ended by ending the craving, which in turn, can be achieved by following the fourth truth.
    • The fourth truth reveals to follow The Noble Eightfold Path.

The Noble Path reveals the following:

    • The first and second relate to right views and right understanding of the mind. These proposals require proper understanding of Buddha's method (nature of dukkha).
    • The third, fourth, and fifth paths refer to right speech, right conduct, and right vocation. They offer simple suggestions of prudence. One should follow "the path" to achieve spiritual goodness.
    • The sixth, seventh and eighth paths apply to meditation. Right effort, right awareness(smiriti), and right contemplation (smadhi) are necessary to achieve complete meditation.

      In general, Zen is different from other religious groups. Zen is not a religion in the sense that religion is generally understood. Zen has no God to worship, no ceremonial rights to observe, no "future abode" to which the dead are destined. Zen is free of all dogmatic principles that Christianity and other religions are tied to. Zen has no set doctrines which are imposed on its followers for acceptance. Zen teachings come out of one's own mind. It is addressed to the human heart. It is a living experience, a "creative impulse."

      All major religions, Buddhism included, have split into schools and sects. But the different sects of Buddhism have never gone to war with each other and they go to each others temples and worship together. This understanding by the different Buddhist sects is vary rare. Buddhism has evolved in different forms so it can be relevant to different cultures. For example, the practice of Zen Buddhism is different among the Chinese, Americans, and Japanese. Because Zen Buddhism is the creation of the T'ang dynasty in China (where it originated), it is difficult for Anglo-Saxons and the Japanese to absorb anything quite so Chinese as Zen. The Chinese practice involves the achievement and respect for a vision of a universal way of nature, wherein good and evil are both considered as parts of existence. Japanese Zen promotes rigid self-discipline and was popular among the Samurai class. Meanwhile, American Zen is self-conscious and subjective and is used to justify life and one's desires. The types of Buddhism all may seem very different but at the center of all of them is the Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path.


III. Links to Zen Buddhism Web Sites

    Essentials of Buddhism
    This link serves to educate the individual about the "essentials of Buddhism" which include the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, three characters of existence, five aggregates, five hindrances, seven factors of enlightenment, ten perfections, four boundless states, and the ten fetters of existence. It also provides excellent additional links to those who become intrigued by Buddhist thoughts.

    Zen @ Sunsite
    If you are wondering what Zen is, this is a link for you. It gives you some direction on what sites to explore based on what you want to discover about the wonderful world of Zen. Included are links to The Electronic Bodhidarma, The Zen Garden, and The Zen Mountain Monastery. Also, one can explore Zen "texts" by taking a peak at this site.

    Journal of Buddhist Ethics
    Click here to explore the many global resources for Buddhist studies. Connect yourself to the Center for Buddhist Studies in Taiwan or perhaps you want to visit the Albuquerque Zen Center or the Toronto center. Introduce yourself to the study of Buddhism in a "global" way.

    Dark Zen: The Teachings of Mystical Zen
    Watch this website to explore the teachings of Dark Zen. Read the essays and lectures on Mystical Zen and join in on the Zennist e-mail discussion group. Perhaps an on-line chat group would answer your uncertainties about Zen. Come take a trip to the Zennist and explore the Buddha mind.

    Nifty Links to Buddhist Sites
    This "nifty" link provides connections to "women active in buddhism," a link to additional Buddhist resources, Tibetan Buddhism, Zen Buddhism + links to many more fascinating and educating sites. Come explore some nifty links to enhance your knowledge about Buddhism.

    The Ultimate Buddhism Glossary
    A great way to introduce oneself to the Buddhist religion! A large index of Buddhist terms. Differences between Mahayana Buddhism from Theravada. Also The Five Precepts, The Four Noble Truths, and The Eightfold Path are simply defined so anyone can understand these concepts.

    Rich Resources on Buddhism
    This is a link to the Buddhist studies database of Taiwan University; a very rich resource in Buddhist text collections and Buddhist scholarly works. An excellent research tool for one interested in doing an in depth examination on the Buddhist faith. Very up-to-date!

    Buddhism China
    Established by East Asian Libraries, this megalink provides connections to sites on Buddhism, including the Buddhism Virtual Library. Other links include Buddhist art, journals and periodicals, and an abundance of resource materials and texts.

    Questions about Zen
    This link provides those interested in discovering the world of Zen with answers to frequently asked questions. Questions concerning the history of Zen, the spirituality of Zen, Zen writings, and the experience of Zen practices in meditation all are answered and easily understood by those unfamiliar with Zen practices and Zen faith. This link also provides an introductory reading list for those who become interested in further exploring the wonderful world of Zen Buddhism.

    The Buddhist Resource File
    Take a look at this immense list of Buddhist resources on Buddhist activities and literature. It provides an index that easily accesses the web browser to different Buddhist associations, centers, texts, and more..... Come explore the different schools of Buddhism by clicking on this incredibly resourceful link.

    The Buddha Room
    This site provides links to those who seek more of an understanding of Buddhism. It guides you to Buddhist resources on the Internet as well as Zen organizations and sources.

    Iriz Home Page
    Boasts one of the largest collections of Buddhist primary texts materials on the Internet. Includes Zen art, zen centers, news, and many more interesting topics for the Zen Buddhist navigator.

    Zen: Lineage of Master Deshimaru
    A great website to find understanding to what is Zen, the posture of Zazen, Zen in western countries, and Master Kosen Thibaut. Also provides links to Zen hot lists, teachings, and even a Zen Master online.

    Zen Buddhism
    Provides links to understanding Zen Buddhism by providing links to resources and information, magazines, newsletters, and teachings.

    A Lighter Side of Buddhism
    Tired of reading dry and dull topics on Buddhism? If so, click on this link. According to this site, Buddha was known to have a good sense of humor. This link presents some funny short stories, comments on Buddhism, and links to another "Buddha World."

    A Spiritual Quest
    In search of spirit? This link provides related Zen/Buddhist sites on the web that have much to offer. Some sites that are included are: The Zen Web of Original Mind, Zen Mountain Monastery, and a guide to meditation.

IV. Bibliography
Dumoulin, Heinrich. "Zen Buddhism: A history." Volume I: India and China
Macmillan Press. New York., 1988.
Eliade, Mircea. "The Encyclopedia of Religion." Volume 15
Macmillan Press. New York., 1987.
Kapleau, Roshi Philip. "The Three Pillars of Zen."
Doubleday Press. New York., 1980.
Melton, J. Gordon. "Encyclopedia of American Religions." Fifth Edition.
Gale Research Inc. Staff,