As time went on Buddhism split into two main groups – Theravada and Mahayana. Within the Mahayana tradition there are five main schools, of which Zen is the intuitive school. Zen is the Japanese counterpart of the Chinese word Ch’an which, in turn, is a translation of the Sanskrit word Dhyana meaning the meditation, which leads to insight. The intuitive experience or enlightenment is called Satori.
In order to achieve Satori the mind has to be trained through three main methods.
- Zazen (seated meditation).
Long hours are devoted to sitting silently with eyes half-open and the gaze falling unfocused on the floor a few feet in front. In meditation use is made of the Koan.
- Koan (problem).
They contain the enlightenment of the Master who constructed them, and by answering it the same enlightenment is realized by the trainee. These could be described as puzzles that provoke, baffle and exhaust the mind, bringing it to an intellectual and emotional impasse breaking the structures of ordinary reason and opening the mind for the intuitive experience. An example of a famous Koan is: ‘What did your face look like before your ancestors were born?"
- Sanzen(private audience).
These are brief meetings or consultations between the trainee and his master.
When the springs of intuition are released and Satori realized the individual experiences the bliss of oneness with the rest of creation. He must not be content with this experience but must relate it to his everyday life. He must live in the world without being affected by its joys and sorrows, success and failures.
"My daily activities are not different,
Only I am naturally in harmony with them.
Taking nothing, renouncing nothing,
In every circumstance no hindrance, no conflict…"
Generally Zen sects accept as normative four conditions:
- A special oral transmission from master to disciple outside the scriptures.
- No dependence upon the authority of words and letters.
- Direct pointing to the soul of man.
- Seeing into one’s own nature and attaining Buddhahood.
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