Zen: 5 key things to know about Zen

Beautiful lawn with red flowerig bushes


What is Zen? Zen is a school of Mahayana Buddhism that originated in China during the 6th century CE. It emphasizes the importance of meditation and direct experience over scriptural study or ritual. 

Garden path

Here are 5 key things to know about Zen:

1. Focus on direct experience: Zen rejects the idea that enlightenment can be attained through intellectual study alone. Instead, it emphasizes the importance of direct, intuitive understanding through meditation and other spiritual practices.

Beautiful lawn, garden, trees, tulips

2. Emphasis on simplicity: Zen teachings often use simple, paradoxical statements and koans (riddles) to challenge the logical mind and provoke sudden insights. The goal is to transcend conceptual thinking and access a more direct, non-dual awareness.

Beautiful lawn and flowers

3. Importance of the present moment: Zen places great importance on being fully present and attentive to the current moment, rather than being caught up in thoughts about the past or future. This "beginner's mind" allows one to see things with fresh eyes.

The Peace Arch

4. Rejection of rigid doctrine: Zen does not have a fixed set of beliefs or dogmas. Instead, it encourages students to find their own way and discover the truth for themselves through their own direct experience.

Tulips under a tree

5. Influence on art and culture: Zen has had a profound influence on various aspects of East Asian culture, including art, poetry, gardening, and the martial arts. Its emphasis on simplicity, spontaneity, and the appreciation of natural beauty can be seen in many traditional Japanese art forms.

White bowing flowers

Photos location: The Peace Arch Park in Blaine Washington 

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