Having gone through the basics of Buddhism — the Four Noble Truths that outline the core beliefs, the Eightfold Path that outlines the core practice, and a bit about the Buddha himself — I’d like to get a little more specific now and talk about Zen.
The reason that I’ve been explaining the basics of Buddhism is that one of the things on my list of 101 things is to restart my own practice. That meant that I knew I’d be writing a lot about it here, and that in turn meant that I’d lose you all pretty quickly if I didn’t fill you in on the basics! And while there are many interesting branches of Buddhism, Zen is my practice and I know very little about Theravada, Pure Land, and the other branches.
Way back on my initial post, someone asked about the differences between Buddhism and Zen. Zen is Buddhism, the same way that Lutheranism is Christianity, Reformism is Judaism, and so on. Zen is different from the other branches of Buddhism, but naturally can’t be different than Buddhism itself.
The problem is that what Zen is is not easy to explain. Or perhaps it’s too easy to explain. Here is what Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen in China, had to say:
A special transmission outside the scriptures;
No dependence on words and letters;
Direct pointing to the mind of man;
Seeing into one’s nature and attaining Buddhahood.
Clear? No? Okay. Let me explain.