Tracing the exact origin and history of Zen Buddhism can be overwhelming, due to the different private and public accounts of philosophy that exist. However, according to Richard (1998), Zen Buddhism was first established around the sixth century in China. It was formed as a result of the integration of ideals, which defined Taoism and Indian Mahayana Buddhism. Driven by its essence to craft a deeper meaning of life, the ideology spread from China to Korea, and later to Japan, where the locals popularly embraced it. The primary aim of Zen Buddhism is to achieve the perfection of personhood, an aspect that emerges as non-discriminatory wisdom among its practitioners. The following dichotomy will provide an in-depth view of the Zen Buddhism ideals through the analysis of both Paula Arai's publications and Richard Jaffe's article.
As a term, Zen refers to a Chinese word, "Chan," which simply means meditation. The essential purpose or goal of Zen was to provide the practitioner with a critical and unique perspective, which would enable him or her to realize the meaning of life without being affected by the biased influence of language or logical thought (Arai, 1990). The demanding and paradoxical nature of Zen Buddhism, as a practice, implies that the followers of the religion need to display a high degree of discipline and tolerance, aspects that when crafted correctly, result in total freedom and ultimate spontaneity. Within its teachings, Zen was focused on educating its followers that the aspect of true enlightenment was achieved through the awakening of insights (Richard, 1998).
Zen's History in Japan
Zen Buddhism was first introduced in China. It later spread to Japan around the thirteenth century, an era in which the ideology seized a firm foothold in Japan's Samurai class. Reading through the publication of Richard (1998), it is clear that the interests of Japanese men compelled the spread of its teachings in the area, given that most of them traveled back to China to expand their knowledge and literature on the different philosophy. Out of the two authors, Arai crafts her insight on the matter with a more commanding tone, elements that are associated with the author's modern knowledge as well as analysis of Chinese, Pali, and Sanskrit original works.
One aspect of Zen Buddhism that made it spread quickly compared to other ideologies is the philosophy's flexibility. Most of the techniques taught under the Zen Buddhism doctrine were quite compatible with other already established religious doctrines. This is because of Zen Buddhism, just like other religions, aimed at addressing the mystical understanding that encompasses an individual's set of faith (Arai, 1990). Cumulatively, the compatibility of Zen Buddhism played a considerable role in compelling the Japanese samurai sector to observe and uphold the teachings.
According to Richard (1998), the tenets of Buddha had a significant impact in determining the worship beliefs that defined most of the Japanese nationals. For instance, at its introduction, the Zen Buddhist ideals withdrew a substantial component of its fertility and worldly attachments guidelines from the Shinto blueprint (Arai, 1998). The given aspect had a huge and momentous impact on Japanese culture. For instance, the locals established Buddhist temples that were observed to be appropriate sendoff platforms for the deceased, instead of crafting large tombs that were engraved with "haniwa" during memorial services.
Zen Buddhism Meditation
As a process or a path that leads to enlightenment, Zen Buddhism is defined by the constant invoking of meditation. Mainly, when practicing meditation, there are three steps that the procedure requires. They involve adjusting the body, mind, and breathing (Richard, 1998). Each step is interlinked to the previous one since it is an adjustment of the prior. Therefore, each step required the successive phase. In every session, the teacher or moderator conducts the meditation session straightforwardly, and then interchange the concepts so that the student can place them in an agreeable and acceptable standpoint.
The Body's Adjustment
Body adjustment as the first step of meditation essentially revolves around the physical and mental preparation of oneself in a bid to achieve the optimal freedom state. For one to accomplish this, the individual must uphold a lifestyle that cherishes an acceptable diet, appropriate physical exercises, as well as the deterrence from unhealthy habits. By doing so, an individual would have cultivated a healthy mind-body condition (Arai, 1998). In addition to the manner of life, Zen also focuses on expounding on the meditation postures that one should assume during the sessions. Under this segment, Zen Buddhism recommends that a practitioner should always observe the lotus posture or half-lotus posture when meditating, as the traditional postures are useful in crafting out several psychosomatic disorders as well as psychological complexes.
The Breathing Adjustment
The practice of Zen meditation is anticipated to nurture numerous health breathing benefits, given that it is focused on nurturing a period breaking exercise dubbed "susokukan," or observation of breathing count (Richard, 1998). During meditation, the manner in which the practitioner breaths plays a fundamental role in overseeing the successful completion of the process. Once a practitioner can master his or her breathing, he or she can infuse his or her mind and body with fresh life energy, an aspect that expels toxic and negative energy, especially given that the exercise is performed in an amply ventilated area.
Mind adjustment is the final meditation stage, and it essentially revolves around the conscious transition into a state of meditation. Whenever a practitioner is perfecting this stage, he or she disengages from the general concern of life and attempts to achieve a state where his or her body and breathing are still operated without the help of the conscious part. Three phrases usually define this stage of transition. The initial stage revolves around the practitioner listening to his or her audible inhaling and exhaling sounds. During the second phase, the practitioners focus on feeling the inhaling and exhaling breath pathways. Notably, the third phase is a peaceful, tranquil, and collected state, where the practitioner sips into a deeper state of meditation (Richard, 1998).
Zen Buddhism Philosophy and Attributes
Communalism above Individuality
Drawing from Arai (1990) insights, one of the values that defined the Zen Buddhism philosophy is the aspect of communalism. As a philosophy, Zen Buddhism placed paramount importance in dictating how the followers' actions influenced the group's outcome. Drawing from the principles that founded Zen Buddhism, the idea of Satori or enlightenment held significance over all other aspects. Interestingly, the desire to achieve enlightenment is an aspect that uniquely differentiated Zen Buddhism from its roots. According to Arai (1990), Zen Buddhism was at the onset recognized to be different from Hindu's culture, based on the religious ideals that defined the Hindu's traditions. The Chinese residents, on the other hand, had a distinct manner of perceiving life, elements that when cumulatively combined were inconsistent, and dictated the creation of a common platform; that is, Zen Buddhism.
Self-Probing and Questioning
Unlike other Indian or Chinese religion that existed before, Zen Buddhism had minimal interest in spirituality, God, and religion as a whole (Richard, 1998). The only similarity that existed between Zen Buddhism and religion was the application of questioning as an approach to discover the truth of one's believes. Arai (1998) recollects that Zen philosophy has been crafted of the fundamental need of a follower to see into his or her being. This is because the ideology argues that life is a form of suffering, and for one to escape the agony, he or she must overcome the triggers of desire, and embrace the genuine unbiased truth. This given aspect was once supported by a famous Buddhism writer Suzuki, who argued that the essential purpose of Zen is not to explain, but rather to revolve around tangible facts and concrete thoughts. Suffering as an occurrence is nurtured by ignorance, which is nothing short of sensuous and intellect infatuation (Richard, 1998).
Enlightenment as Primary Goal
Within the philosophy of Zen Buddhism, the understanding of the follower was essentially the main aim that defined the philosophy. Popularly known as Satori, "enlightenment could only be achieved through the meditation on actions and utterances that were poured out from one's inner region" (Richard, 1998). It is crucial to note that the direct method of meditation utilized by the Zen philosophy is the only approach known to achieve the true meaning and purpose of what Zen Buddhism stands for. According to Arai (1990), meditation is indeed a powerful technique, which when properly taught and applied, could achieve an infinitely illuminating result. It is crucial to note that when enlightenment is fully achieved, the follower is said to have mastered his image and staff, an aspect that enables one to acknowledge and appreciate the appropriateness of abrupt or irrelevant remarks.
Women's Role in Zen Buddhism
One interesting aspect that Arai pointed out concerning the foundation of Buddhism in Japan was the role of nuns in propelling the spread of the philosophy (Arai, 1998). As members of the society, most of the nuns were active members of the Soto Zen sect, a clique that has persisted till to date (Arai, 1998). Through Arai's work, it is clear that the life and manner in which nuns live embodies the classic ideals of Buddhism, where the followers generally live a disciplined monastic life. The act of choosing to live in such a manner demonstrates the aspect of preceding world desires such as unconstrained secular and contemporary lifestyles, or successful careers, in a bid to understand the fundamentals of the unbiased truth (Arai, 1998).
Contrastingly, Richard (1998) offers a crucial and revealing insight on the role of women in the spread of Zen Buddhism. Interestingly, drawing from the author's remarks, although nuns play an essential role in promoting the Zen Buddhism values, it is essential to note that several Buddha monasteries did perceive women to be inferior when compared to men. Resultantly, in spite of both women and men being allowed to practice Zen Buddhism, men enjoyed a wide variety of religious practices compared to women followers. For instance, Arai (1990) points out that under the Enryakuji monastery, most of the rituals that were observed by the male followers within the court were closed up to women. Despite being granted the permission to practice Zen Buddhism, women were perceived to be prone to sins, based on their weakness for compassion, an aspect that placed numerous obstacles on women, hindering their ability to achieve Buddhahood.
In conclusion, Zen Buddhism is an ideology that vouches for the freedom of the mind, an aspect that can only be achieved through the use of body and breathe control. It is clear that the philosophy started in China before spreading to Japan. When tracing the relation between Zen Buddhism and Japan, it becomes evident that the Samurai class played a crucial role in promoting its influence. Drawing from both readings, the audience was able to understand the process of meditation, as well as the philosophy and attributes that define the ideology. It is vital to note that Zen Buddhism was concerned with a clear understanding of an element, an aspect that was brought about by intuitive understanding and not philosophy. However, it is clear the philosophy had oppressive vi...
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