Tuesday, April 25, 2023

From Chan to Zen

 Cha or Chan Buddhism traveled from China to Japan somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 years before the current era (BCE).  Chan Buddhism, also called Mahayana Buddhism traveled from India to China on the shoulders of Bodidharma, student of Gautama, and eventually landed in the Temple of Hunan, the home of Shaolin.  The monks of the Small Forest. 

The Japanese transformed Chan meditation into Zen meditation by adding the practice of the Koan.  Koans are riddles that a Zen Master gives the student to focus the mind and quiet the thoughts during the meditative practice.  Chan mediation doesn't focus on a single thought as much.  In Chan Meditation it is more important to sit quietly and let the thoughts flow through the mind eventually leading to a quieting of the thoughts approaching emptiness allowing enlightenment to enter the mind.  The Koans of Zen allow the student to focus on one thought or series of thought in order to achieve a state of emptiness allowing enlightenment to enter. 

Other than the addition of a Koan and the Quiet sitting of Chan, the practices are very similar and both are versions of Mahayana as taught by Bodidharma, who the Shaolin called Tamo.  Tamo has many meanings in the various languages of China, we will stick to Venerated One.  

Emptiness is a statement that is greatly misunderstood by those who read, but don't practice.  Emptiness is not the state of being absent or empty headed.  That would be a dangerous path to follow.  Emptiness in the realm of Zen or Chan meditation is actively participating in the quieting process of the mind.  It is the intentional focusing on a small part of the mind and calling it empty.  The ability to focus on one spot at any given moment takes much concentrated effort, and when achieved lasts for moments before the concentration process must start over again.  The more practice that is put into it the longer the quiet moments.  This is where Enlightenment is hidden.  Within the quiet moments of meditation.  

What then is Enlightenment?  It is not all knowing, nor is it the tell all state of being.  However, enlightenment is different for every seeker of truth.  The word Truth and Enlightenment are interchangeable.  How we get there is purely a unique process for every individual on the path, We are all Buddha.  

Peace and Balance,


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