What is Zen?
Thursday, 23 September 2010 09:51

zen-circleAlthough the term "Zen" is commonly used, many may not be aware of its significance. In fact, the word has multiple meanings, which for convenience can be divided to:

  1. Meditation
  2. Zen-buddhism
  3. A glimpse or experience that transcends the phenomenal world

The most common use of the word means meditation. It is also used as an abbreviation in reference to Zen-buddhism, a widespread branch of buddhist practices. Some also use it in expressions such as "Zen experience" when referring to an experience of the reality transcending the sensory world. However, due to the popularity of the term, it is not uncommon to see it used in misleading ways.

It bears to mention that only one of the above meanings has religious connotations - generally speaking "Zen" refers to practical benefits or a form of practice developed to provide them. Even Zen buddhism is not a religion in the traditional sense of the word: Following a dogma or acts of worship are not requirements in Zen. Therefore both religious or non-religious people can be Zen practitioners.


  • Practically all existing schools and branches of Zen can be traced back to China's Shaolin monastery.
  • Although the popularized term "Zen" is a Japanese word, it is derived from the Chinese word "Chan", originating from "Dhyana", the Sanskrit word for meditation.
  • This development also follows the spreading of Zen from India to China and on to Korea and Japan, in which the Shaolin monastery was instrumental - with the Shaolin practitioners of dynastic China, Zen or "Chan" became a uniquely Chinese art.


Last Updated on Friday, 16 December 2011 16:18