Zen Buddhism

Of the many forms of Buddhism practiced around the world, Zen Buddhism is probably the form most often identified with Japan in the West. While certainly popular, it is not numerically the largest sect of the religion followed in Japan. Experts estimate that Zen Buddhism accounts for about 10 percent of Buddhists in Japan.

Zen—or Ch’an (Chan)—was brought first to China by the Indian teacher Bodhidharma (ca. 440- 528). Zen first flourished in Japan during the 13th century, despite facing initial opposition from other sects. From its early roots, Zen included martial arts such as archery. As it grew, Zen influenced arts such as painting and poetry.

Zen followers believe that enlightenment can be achieved in a sudden dramatic moment, called satori. They place great value in meditation, rather than what we might call book learning. Often, Zen teachers use devices such as koans, paradoxical sayings, to provide a meditation aid for students.

Zen has become so popular in the West that theword zen is sometimes used as an adjective on its own, often to mean the “essence” or “spiritual way” of a thing.


Japanese Mythology A-Z – Second Edition – Written by Jeremy Roberts – Copyright © 2010 by Jim DeFelice – Publisher : Chelsea House Publishers