Zen History
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A Brief History of Zen


Zen Buddhism originates in the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama. Around 55 BC he was a prince in what is now known as India. As he was deeply troubled by the suffering he saw around him, at age 29 he renounced his priveleged life to seek understanding. After six years of struggling and learning as an ascetic, he finally acheived enlightenment at age 35. After this, he was known as Buddah, or "The Enlightened One".

Basically, he realized that everything is subject to change and that suffering and discontentment are the result of attachments to circumstances and things which, by their nature, are impermanent. By ridding oneself of theses attachments, including attachment to the false notion of "self", one can be free of suffering.

The teachings of Buddah have been passed down from teacher to student. Around 475 AD one of these teachers, Bodhidharma, travelled from India to China and introduced the teachings of the Buddah there. In China, Buddhism mingled with Taoism. The result was the Ch'an school of Buddhism. Around 1200 AD Ch'an Buddhism spread from China to Japan where it is called Zen Buddhism.

One of the central points of Zen is intuitive understanding. As a result, words and sentences have no fixed meaning, and logic is often irrelevant. Words have meaning only in relation to who is using them, who they are talking to, and what situation they are used in. All of the meaning in Zen is between the lines.

Truth and meaning have existence beyond and independent of words. Words may or may not contain truth. Ultimately, the awakening to our fundamental enlightened mind is beyond descriptions possible in words. Words are convenient sounds or tools limited by both the nature of sound itself, and the minds of both the speaker and the listener. Zen has little use for words which don't facilitate Awakening. Even logic must take second place to the all important task of a personal realization of the pure wisdom which every human can realize.

Resources used in Creating this Website

"A Buddhist Bible" Edited by Dwight Goodard

"Buddhism; A Way of Thought and Life" By Nancy Ross Wilson

"The Three Pillars of Zen" by Roshi Phillip Kapleau

"Zen Mind, Beginners Mind" by Shunryu Suzuki

"Siddhartha" by Herman Hesse


All images used are non-copyrighted images.