Zen (or Ch’an)

One of the few traditional forms of instant enlightenment
in Oriental religions. However, Zen normally demands a long
a preliminary period of monastic life and spiritual discipline culminating
in the somewhat surrealist techniques that give instant
satori, or enlightenment.
Zen is a special branch of Mahayana Buddhist school (which
dominates Buddhism in China, Korea, and Japan), dating from
520 C.E. when Bodhi-Dharma (d. 534 C.E.) went from India to
China with a mission later codified in the maxims ‘‘a special
transmission outside the scriptures; no dependence upon
words and letters; direct pointing at the soul of man; seeing
into one’s nature; and the attainment of Buddhahood.’’ Zen
was later divided into two main schools, called Rinzai and Soto
in Japan.
Rinzai Zen depends very much upon sudden or startling
paradoxes, embodied in koans, mystical riddles such as
‘‘Empty-handed I come, carrying a spade.’’ Modern interest in
Zen often misunderstands the nature of such riddles, where the
verbal factor is merely a trigger to intensify stress in the pupil,
and as a result many Westerners tend to treat Zen as a kind of
intellectual exercise.

In practice, however, such paradoxes were
the culmination of a more formal monastic training emphasizing
traditional spiritual values. The disciple would be fully extended
on all levels of his nature—physically, in the everyday
hard work of the monastery; mentally, in the assimilation of
spiritual teaching; and emotionally, in the sudden clash of unconventional
techniques used in Zen

The koans merely accentuated an intolerable pressure at all
levels, culminating in the sudden flash of enlightenment by
transcendence on a higher, spiritual plane. (See also ZCLA
Journal; Zazen; Zen Studies Society)

Humphreys, Christmas. Zen Buddhism. London: Heinemann,
1949. Reprint, New York: Macmillan, 1967.
Suzuki, D. T. Manual of Zen Buddhism. New York: Grove
Press, 1960.
———. Zen Buddhism: Selected Writings of D. T. Suzuki. Edited
by William Barrett. New York: Doubleday/Anchor, 1956.

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