The Elusiveness and Effectiveness of Zen Buddhism.

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History of India

April 28, 2004

The Elusiveness and Effectiveness of Zen Buddhism

Of all the sects and divisions of Buddhism, one of the hardest to describe in words is unquestionably Zen.  As one of the core values of the religion (although some would call it a philosophy) is that there is no value in relying on the texts or the words of others, attributing a dictionary style definition to this sense of enlightenment is a difficult task. Zen teachers seek to clarify to their students that things cannot be explained in words but can only be learned through concrete personal experience. They assert that enlightenment cannot be achieved through words, for words, which are just a “logical” description, do not elucidate the truest essence of an object.  Despite being difficult to express through written or spoken words, it is one of the most popular forms of Buddhism in Western society.

        Though it has had great success in its Western advances, Zen has roots strong in Southeast Asia, where it arrived in roughly 520 AD from the India, the motherland of Buddhism.  Buddhism developed in India as a nonconformist counterpart to the local dominating religion that is Hinduism.  It denied the authority of the caste system and did not accept the importance and value of the extensive Vedic rites and rituals.  Eventually, Buddhism was near extinguished from India, as the Hindu religion adopted more and more of its philosophical practices and the line between the two became blurred.  Both religions have faith in the notion of reincarnation, karma, and the end goal of Nirvana, or absolute liberation. But roughly 1000 years after the birth of the Buddah and the start of this religion, Buddhism began to change and spread throughout the surrounding areas.

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        India’s trade routes served as an incredible vehicle of influence for religion and philosophy. Because of its international connections, many important people traveled to such great lengths as China and Japan.  One such man was Bodhi-Dharma, who landed in 520 AD in China during the reign of Emperor Wu.  Bodhi-Dharma went on to be the father of the Zen school of Buddhism in China.  He reportedly described Zen as “a special transmission outside of the scriptures.  There is no need for dependence on words and letters…Seeing into one’s nature, which is identical with all reality, justifies Buddha-life and led to the ...

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