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Zen Buddhism and Japan

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Zen Buddhism and Japan

Japan and the development of Zen Buddhism went hand in hand towards the beginning of the sixth century. Buddhism was in full bloom in India and the Chinese were adapting it to there Lifestyle when several Japanese clans began picking it up. Zen Buddhism

Zen Buddhism is a combination of Indian and Chinese thought process revolving around the world as it is and the discipline of finding enlightenment. The idea of enlightenment or Satori as the Japanese called it was the central point of Buddhism The Chinese had several ways of looking at the things that were contradicted by Indian lifestyles and thus you have the creation of Zen Buddhism. The Chinese weren’t as philosophically minded as their Indian counterparts, rather looking at things in a very practical way. The Chinese were always devoted to world affairs, but always kept touch of reality. The Chinese weren’t looking for God, or answers from a higher source, looking within for the answers. This is one way the Zen Buddhism was greatly different from most other religions was its emphasis on asking questions and seeking answers thought the use of meditation. The monks that followed Zen Buddhists weren’t asked to recite group prayer or any other deeds of piety, but rather just ask questions and seek answers. The basis of Zen Buddhism also puts an unprecedented emphasis on community. A monk of any level, or the master of of a Monastery all have the same role in community and work together on all levels. No matter how mundane the work might be, the group emphasis rules above all thus creating every man equal. Zen teachings believe in handling a thing rather than an abstraction and this is an example of this. Rather than asking a god figure, or waiting for god’s intervention, Buddhist monks believe in asking the question to themselves or to a higher monk where they can get a grounded answer, although it was usually cryptic.

These cryptic answers however relate to one way one achieves enlightenment, through the use of Zen verbalism. This verbalism is very characteristic of the Chinese way, as the answer is always grounded in something very real. Most Zen teachings that are written down are reflective of this, emphasizing not the words themselves, but the meaning that hovers around the words. One must look at the statement as a serious of live words and dead words. If there is a statement relating to Geese flying, the quote is then not about actual geese, those are the dead words, but the teacher and his intentions. Zen verbalism must seen as an undistinguishable thing that reveals itself when the speaker looks inside at himself. D.T. Suzuki say that “Satori must be the growth of one’s inner life and not a verbal implantation brought from the outside”(p.10). Zen is a daily experience, not something brought from outside. The second part of attaining enlightenment is the following Zen actions just in general. In a way Zen verbalism is similar to Zen actions but Zen verbalism refers to just the teachings that relate to Zen. This second way of finding enlightenment is following the path of the Buddha in your everyday life style.

Zen Buddhism became the prominent religion in Japan due to support from popular leaders in the country. The teaching of Buddhism came into to Japan during the sixth century when Japan was faced with many feuding clans. Several clans picked up the new religion and soon after one of those clans came into power. With much support from the new emperor, and other high ranking officials Buddhism was declared the official religion of Japan. This created even more feuding, despite the initial attempts at declaring Buddhism Japan’s new national religion. Shinto was the other religion that maintained much of the public’s attention, also known as the way of the gods. This religion was much more formal that what Buddhism depicted, but was firmly rooted in some traditional Buddhist thoughts involving Nature and the use of temples. Japanese disciples began visiting China to further their understanding Buddhism, as well as experience first-hand the creativeness of the Chinese. Over the next couple decades Japan would begin to flourish and unite under Buddhism as the Emperor had envisioned. The arts also soon flourished, and Zen understanding was shown everywhere. Schools, and temples were the best example of this as Zen was become daily practice for everything. Any student studying any subject had the basic Buddhist mindset, letting his work do “it” self.

The work Zen and the art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel is a good example of how Zen was applied to common day practices. In this work the author has decided to study archery with a master Japanese archer who at first refuses to teach him. This refusal is due to the fact the teacher fears that his student would be learning archery for self-ish reasons,

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