What is zen?

Zen stones - Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography

Zen is not a religion, although it most closely follows Buddhist principles.

It is not a religion in the sense that one cannot claim to be a “zennist”. There is no formal doctrine of zen, nor is there a zen priesthood. Neither does one worship zen gods, zen masters or zen spirits.

Rather zen is an approach to life — a way of seeing — of looking beyond the illusions created by the mind, of awakening to reality, of enlightenment. And this is achieved not by a strict adherence to any dogma or set of rules, but simply by being increasingly alert and aware of one’s thoughts, feelings and actions. The individual seeks that inner center that is unchanging and undisturbed, capable of seeing life as a mysterious and  great adventure, a grand theater, a delightful journey that has no other purpose than to enjoy and celebrate each step (or misstep) along the path.

Zen is not about emulating a messiah or a buddha. It is about becoming a buddha. It is about the full flowering of the love and compassion within all of us.

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6 thoughts on “What is zen?”

  1. With much respect, please get your facts straight. There is a zen priesthood in Japan and yes, they are ordained, and do perform certain functions within their community that can only be defined as priestly. The difference between them and the Buddhist clergy in other countries is that in Japan, Buddhist clergy (Zen clergy included) are allowed to marry and own property.

    As for Zen being not a religion, well I will not touch that. There are already too many dissenting views on that one. Is it a religion? Is it something else? I will not answer.

    I will only tell you what is true for me alone: I am a Zen Buddhist – a Buddhist who belongs and practices in the Soto Zen tradition. My teacher is an ordained Zen priest. And although we worship no “zen gods” we do bow to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. But then again, that is part of our practice: bowing to everything – all life, the universe, you, me, etc. It is a religion for me. Maybe it doesn’t have to be a religion for all who practice it, but it is a religion for me. It is how I live.

  2. “It is about becoming a buddha”

    Very close. But I would go further and say it is realizing fully that we are already Buddha.

    I find your site interesting. I think I’ll be browsing around some more in the days to come.

    Regards,

    Raffy

  3. “And yes, I am familiar with the dissenting views. Consider this one of them.

    Peace.”

    Peace to you too I really mean that.:)

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