What is Zen Buddhism?

by Mia Fischer April 21, 2019 6 min read 1 Comment

Zen - Zen Buddhsim - What is Zen Buddhism?

What is Zen Buddhism?

The moon mirrors itself in the still waters of a lake, yet the moon itself is unaware of it. The same way, the lake does not know that it reflects the image of the moon. However, both the moon and the lake as well as the mirror image exist. This is Zen – the awareness of a sublime truth that is subtle and abstract.

Zen Buddhism is one of many schools of Buddhism. In the fifth century, Zen (Chinese: Chan, Vietnamese: Thiền, Korean: Seon) emerged from Mahayana Buddhism in China and it also exhibits influences of Daoism. From there, this school of Buddhism reached Vietnam, Korea and Japan. The Zen philosophy, as it is known and practiced worldwide today, has its origins in Japan in the 12th century. Since the state of deep meditation is an essential feature of Zen Buddhism Buddhism, it is also often called meditation Buddhism.

Zen meditation

Sitting daily in the silence of deep meditation is called zazen. Zazen is the practical foundation of Zen philosophy. The meditation practice takes place while sitting. There are different seating positions, for example, sitting on the calves (Japanese: Seiza) for which sometimes a wooden stool is used. The classic sitting position is the lotus position. However, those who have knee problems can also practice zazen seated on a chair.

As the Zen practitioners meditate, they focus on their sitting position and breathing. In this deep immersion, the meditators' thoughts and unconsciousness finally give way to higher awareness and the experience of all-embracing consciousness. From the regular sitting meditation, Zen flows into all daily activities – breathing, thinking, speaking, eating, sleeping, walking, and working.

The main principles of Zen lifestyle

Zen is not a theory or science. It is also no religion, no faith with strict dogmas. Rather, it is a philosophy lived through practical experience. There are some principles in Zen Buddhism, which determine lifestyle and everyday life. Be inspired by the following principles to integrate Zen into your own life.

Live with compassion

Compassion is the most important virtue for Buddhists. Compassion changes life in many ways. First, empathy with oneself is necessary to find inner peace. Second, empathy with others allows us to perceive the good in each person rather than judging them, even though we may not always understand their behavior. Moreover, the expression of compassion is the act of connecting the heart. This connection of the heart holds a great source of joy. Out of compassion, you treat everyone you know the same way you treat yourself and you want others to treat you.

Realize that we are not eternal

Death is often a taboo in Western society. Buddhists, on the other hand, regard it as a natural part of the circle of life and meditate to better understand it and learn that they are not eternal themselves. When you accept the finite nature of your existence on earth, your very acceptance can be a great source of inner peace, help you enjoy life to the fullest and appreciate the great and small pleasures your daily life entails. The world will open up to you in a new and profound way.

Develop mindfulness

Strive to consciously be aware in every moment of your life and to be always present. Mindfulness is enormously important, especially in those moments when you find it difficult to stay in the here and now. Because in that case, there is usually something that you should take a closer look at to increase your awareness. Perhaps a feeling, a situation, or a thought? Be attentive and attentive if you want to know more about yourself and the world. Mindfulness will change every aspect of your life and in every way. You will experience greater inner peace and joy and learn the best lessons in life.

Be aware of yourself as part of the whole

A Zen lifestyle means coming into alignment with the nature of the universe and the essence of true happiness. Develop the ability to enjoy each moment of your life in a positive way, transform the most trivial situations into rewarding experiences. Always be aware of the context of the whole and accept yourself as part of the eternal circle of life. With this mental attitude, you discover that every single living being is part of the universe and that the world is constantly evolving. Take the spiritual perspective on life to live in harmony and peace.

Be a role model for others

A Buddhist principle is that no one can help others unless they are able to help themselves. It is about first looking at yourself and trying to be a role model and source of inspiration for others. Avoid fighting for or against something to make the world a better place. First, fix your own world and go ahead as a good example. Instead of a fighting stance, adopt a peaceful and solution-oriented attitude and take measures that have a positive effect on your environment.

Cultivate good values

There would be more peace and happiness in the world if everyone worked to improve their lives and those of others by, for example, doing work that would benefit the well-being of a whole community. When values like fairness, justice, compassion and goodwill are actively lived. This search for good common values can bring about a positive change in your life and the lives of others and lead to more peace and happiness.

Show respect and gratitude for food

Buddhist meditation practices help you to understand the meaning of the food you have in front of you. Food is life – food supplies our body and mind with life energy. As you become aware of the vital role of nutrition, you will be grateful before each meal. You will also pay more attention to the delicate balance of nature.

Understand the act of giving

Giving is more than just Christmas or birthday presents, it is all the little gestures of affection that you experience every day and may not even consider as such. Buddhists have a very deep understanding of giving, for life is both giving and receiving. For a balanced life, there should always be a balance between giving and taking. From this perspective, you can be aware of your resources that you can share with others at any moment, such as kindness, compassion, or just your presence. Give what you want to receive yourself.

Get rid of attachments

Not being attached to fellow human beings does not mean living isolated and lonely. However, you do not make your happiness dependent on the words or deeds of others. Also, do not hold on to your possessions and achievements. Because all of this is transient and the more you cling to it, the greater the pain when you have to let go eventually. The more

you experience in meditation who you really are, the more you will free yourself from attachments.

Give up the three poisons

Life is full of vices that blind you and prevent you from living in harmony with your inner being – in peace, joy and self-realization. Among these vices, there are three, which are regarded as poisons, also called the three unwholesome roots. These three are greed, aversion and delusion. These three poisons are responsible for most of the suffering. Instead of fighting against them, accept the fact that they are part of your life and work to gradually eliminate them.

Tame your ego

Not only Zen Buddhism, but also all forms of spirituality have the ultimate goal of transcending the earthly existence and experiencing the all-encompassing truth. There are some obstacles on the path of spiritual realization. The biggest obstacle is the ego because its function is to separate you from what you really are. It disturbs your inner peace and causes many conflicts, problems and illusions. Although the ego is an integral part of the personality, you will be more successful and happier if you tame it. Zazen or any other form of meditation is the most effective way to control your ego.

Strive for collective growth

In Buddhism, a community of practitioners is called a Sangha. It consists of monks and nuns who live together in peace and practice their life philosophy faith in order to develop higher consciousness for themselves and humanity. The principle of Sangha represents a spiritual community, which should contribute to the individual and collective development of all people. Be aware that your life does not happen in isolation from the others. Strive to live with your fellow human beings in mindfulness and compassion.

Do you want to learn more about Zen? Then try the practical experience and meditate regularly. Zen Buddhism is a practice that needs to be experienced, not a concept that you can intellectualize or understand with your brain. Deep immersion in meditation is the way Zen Buddhists train their minds, expand their consciousness, and establish their peaceful lifestyle. Namaste!

Mia Fischer
Mia Fischer


1 Response

Lydia Percy
Lydia Percy

April 29, 2019

Enlightened… discovering a better self holistically.

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