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Chan Buddhism – the “Flower Sermon” and the profound roots of Chan or Zen — the open hearted path

To grasp the origins of Chan or Zen Buddhism, we’ve got to return to the “Flower Sermon.”

This sermon, given by the Buddha himself, is on the coronary heart of Chan — often known as Zen in Japan or Seon in Korea.

Within the Flower Sermon, the Buddha gathered his disciples collectively for a chat on Dharma. As a substitute of talking, nonetheless, the Buddha merely held up a lotus flower in entrance of him with out saying a phrase.


Buddha Weekly Lotus in Buddha hand 2 dreamstime l 59078613 Buddhism
Within the “Flower Sermon” Buddha merely holds up a flower and says nothing. Solely certainly one of his followers comprehends the profound message.


Everybody within the meeting was attempting to make sense of the Buddha’s message, ready for him to talk. However he by no means did.

The monks had been baffled, however certainly one of them, Mahakasyapa, all of a sudden understood the Buddha’s that means and smiled.

The Buddha mentioned,[1]

“I possess the true Dharma eye, the marvelous thoughts of Nirvāṇa, the true type of the formless, the refined Dharma gate that doesn’t relaxation on phrases or letters however is a particular transmission outdoors of the scriptures. This I entrust to Mahakasyapa.”

This sermon marks the start of Chan Buddhism.

By Dave Lang

The origins of Chan Buddhism in China

The title “Chan” comes from “dhyana,” the Sanskrit phrase for “meditation,” which is central to Chan observe.

The roots of Chan Buddhism in China could be traced again to the sixth century AD when it was launched by an Indian monk named Bodhidharma.


Buddha Weekly Bodhidharma image from Truc Lam Buddhist Temple in Dalat Vietnam dreamstime l 247294878 Buddhism
Bodhidharma picture from Truc Lam Buddhist Temple in Dalat Vietnam. He’s s towering presence in Chan and Zen Buddhism, a historic monk with many legendary tales, who influenced Shaolin and Kungfu.


Bodhidharma is alleged to be the primary patriarch of Chan Buddhism, though some texts set up the road of descent all the way in which again to

Mahakasyapa, the monk who obtained the Buddha’s instructing within the Flower Sermon. Bodhidharma could be the twenty eighth patriarch on this line.

Bodhidharma is a necessary determine in Chan historical past as a result of he’s credited with bringing the observe of meditation to China.

See our earlier options on the Nice Bodhidharma


The center of Chan Buddhism is the observe of meditation

In Chan, meditation is not only a method to calm the thoughts and develop focus. It is usually a device for recognizing the true nature of actuality and attaining enlightenment, or liberation from the cycle of start and loss of life.

Bodhidharma taught that the Dharma couldn’t be grasped by the mind alone via the examine of the scriptures. It’s vital to have the ability to expertise it instantly relatively than via mental understanding.

That’s the reason the Buddha taught his disciples within the Flower Sermon that the way in which to enlightenment is thru the center, not the thoughts.


Buddha Weekly Lotus buddha dreamstime l 127724946 Buddhism
Within the “Flower Sermon” Buddha merely holds up a flower and says nothing. Just one disciple understands — so profoundly he based Chan Buddhism.


The early Chan Buddhist communities gathered round charismatic academics believed to have been enlightened and regarded patriarchs, descending instantly from Bodhidharma.

With the fourth patriarch after Bodhidharma, Daoxin, Chan started to tackle a distinctly Chinese language taste as a separate college.

Our previous associated options on Chan/Zen


The East Mountain teachings

Within the seventh Century, Daoxin and Hongren, his successor, introduced a brand new model of instructing to Chan that got here to be generally known as the “East Mountain teachings,” named after the East Mountain Temple established by Daoxin on the Twin Peaks in Huangmei.

This instructing model de-emphasized the significance of scriptures and guidelines and as a substitute centered on private expertise and meditation.


Buddha Weekly Shaolin temple Zen ZuTing founded in 495 where Bodhidharma came to teach dreamstime l 38098159 Buddhism
The Shaolin temple ZuTing proven right here in latest instances, was based in 495 and was, famously, the place Bodhidharma got here to show.


It was throughout this time that the East Mountain group was established.

The group was the primary time that Chan monks lived and studied collectively in an organized method, a change from the sooner Indian custom of monks touring and instructing individually.

This group life-style suited the Chinese language society, which tended to be extra group-oriented, and helped Chan Buddhism to take root in China.

The Southern Faculty

The sixth and final ancestral founder, Huineng, is alleged to have been one of many greats of Chan historical past. All surviving colleges of Chan think about him their ancestor.

Within the eighth Century, there was a cut up in Chan Buddhism. A successor of Huineng, a monk named Shenhui, created a line of instructing generally known as the “Southern Faculty,” in opposition to the East Mountain Instructing, often known as the “Northern Faculty.”

The primary distinction between the 2 colleges was their understanding of Huineng’s teachings.

Shenhui believed that solely those that had obtained direct transmission from Huineng might attain enlightenment, whereas the East Mountain college believed that anybody might attain enlightenment via their very own efforts.


Buddha Weekly Doors temple Japan dreamstime l 43095290 Buddhism


In addition they had a special view on how you might obtain enlightenment.

The Southern Faculty believed that enlightenment might be achieved via sudden realization, whereas the Northern or East Mountain college believed that it was a gradual course of.

In a while, within the Platform Sutra and thru the teachings of Guifeng Zongmi, this cut up between sudden and gradual enlightenment was reconciled.

Zongmi believed that each sudden and gradual enlightenment had been potential and that they had been simply two totally different levels on the identical path.

It was potential to have a sudden realization of the Dharma, nevertheless it was nonetheless essential to domesticate and observe as a way to consolidate that realization and obtain full enlightenment.

The growth of Chan to different international locations

Finally, the East Mountain teachings unfold to different components of China and past, to Tibet, Korea, and Japan.

In Tibet

Moheyan, a monk from the East Mountain Neighborhood, and different Chinese language Chan Buddhists went to Tibet within the eighth Century.

Chan and Tantric Buddhists lived collectively for a number of centuries however had been later changed by the event of a singular type of Tibetan Buddhism.


Buddha Weekly Stunning view of Eiheiji Temple in Eiheiji Town Fukui Prefecture Japan Soto Zen main temple dreamstime l 189854168 Buddhism
Soto Zen temples are among the many most lovely on the earth, and Eiheiji is probably the most pristine and preserved. Stunning Eiheiji Temple is in Eiheiji City Fukui Prefecture Japan, and is among the two principal temples of Soto Zen.


Zen in Japan

In Japan, the college of Chan Buddhism that developed was referred to as Zen.

The phrase “Zen” is definitely a Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese language phrase “Chan,” which each imply “meditation.” The Japanese monk Eisai is credited with bringing Chan to Japan within the twelfth Century and establishing it as a separate college.

Eisai first got here into contact with Chinese language Chan Buddhism throughout a visit to China in 1168. He was so impressed with what he noticed that after learning it for a number of years, he determined to convey Chan again to Japan. [2]

Eisai based the Japanese Rinzai college of Zen, which continues to be one of many main colleges of Zen in Japan in the present day.

Buddha Weekly Zen discipline of eating in a Zen Temple Buddhism
Even meals are ritualized with single-pointed deal with the exercise in Zen temples.

Zen within the West

Zen is a highly regarded type of Buddhism within the West, and it has had a major impression on Western tradition, particularly within the fields of artwork, literature, and philosophy. It was first launched to the West within the nineteenth Century by Japanese Zen academics who got here to Europe and the US to unfold the teachings of Buddhism.

Within the twentieth Century, the recognition of Zen within the West elevated due partly to the writings of Westerners who had been influenced by

Zen, such because the Beat poets and writers like Alan Watts and D.T. Suzuki.

In the present day, there are Zen Facilities and temples all over the world instructing meditation and providing steering within the observe of Zen.


Buddha Weekly Zen facing wall meditating Buddhism
Zazen, silent sitting meditation — clasically, dealing with a clean wall — is, to some individuals synonymous with Zen.


The texts of Chan Buddhism

Though Chan Buddhism emphasizes private expertise over scriptural examine, there are nonetheless just a few key texts which were necessary to the event of the custom.

Crucial texts in Chan Buddhism are the Lankavatara Sutra, the Platform Sutra, the Diamond Sutra, and the Coronary heart Sutra.

Lankavatara Sutra

The Lankavatara Sutra comprises the Buddha’s direct instructing, recounting his go to to the island of Sri Lanka [3]. On this textual content, the Buddha lays out the ideas of Chan Buddhism, together with the significance of meditation and private expertise over educational examine.

Bodhidharma is alleged to have handed the textual content all the way down to his disciple, Huike, and it has been a necessary textual content in Chan ever since. This sutra teaches that consciousness is the one actuality and that each one issues are created by the thoughts.


Buddha Weekly Lotus in Buddha hand dreamstime l 20889462 Buddhism
Though there are a number of key, necessary sutras referenced in Chan and Zen, the Flower Sermon is the symbolic starting.


Platform Sutra

The Platform Sutra is a set of the sayings and tales of the Sixth Patriarch of Chan, Huineng. The Platform Sutra is among the most necessary texts in Chan Buddhism, and it has been extremely influential within the improvement of Zen in China and Japan.

There are two principal themes on this sutra. One is the unity in essence of conduct, meditation, and knowledge, and the opposite is the direct notion of your true nature. [4]

Diamond Sutra

The Diamond Sutra is among the most generally learn and studied sutras in Mahayana Buddhism. This sutra was written in India within the 4th or fifth Century and dropped at China within the sixth Century.

The Diamond Sutra is necessary in Chan Buddhism as a result of it comprises the teachings of vacancy and the Buddha-nature, two central ideas in Chan.


Buddha Weekly Heart Sutra on bamboo sticks Buddhism
Very outdated Coronary heart Sutra on bamboo sticks.


Coronary heart Sutra

The Coronary heart Sutra is among the most wide-reaching texts of Buddhism, protecting extra of Buddha’s teachings than some other sutra. This sutra is crucial to Chan as a result of it emphasizes the significance of vacancy, a key precept in Chan Buddhism.

The Heart Sutra famously states the profound assertion of Avalokiteshvara: [5]

“Type is vacancy, vacancy is kind.”

The ideas of Chan Buddhism

The origins of Chan Buddhism are deeply rooted within the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism.

What Chan highlights is that Buddha achieved enlightenment via Dharma observe and meditation and never via examine and mental understanding.

These are among the principal ideas that represent the muse of Chan Buddhism.


Buddha Weekly Lucid Dreaming opens the mind Buddhism
Every thing we imagine is manifest is imputed by our perceptions and our thoughts.


Every thing is created by the thoughts

The central precept of Chan Buddhism is that the thoughts creates all issues. This consists of each good and dangerous ideas, in addition to our perceptions of the world round us.

All of actuality is a product of our personal minds, and so it may be modified by altering our ideas.

Chan Buddhists imagine that we are able to solely actually know actuality by instantly experiencing it relatively than via mental examine.


Buddha Weekly Buddha nature like the sun emerging from the clouds Buddhism
Buddha Nature is usually described because the solar behind the clouds. The solar is at all times there, even when you can’t see it. However when the visible obstruction disappears, the solar shines.



The Buddha-Nature is the inherent goodness in all beings. This precept is necessary in Chan Buddhism as a result of it teaches that we’re all able to enlightenment, no matter our present state.

It’s the potential to awaken to our true nature, which is past thought and opinion.

Chan Buddhists imagine that everybody has the Buddha-Nature, and so everybody has the potential to awaken to their true nature and attain enlightenment.

Some options on Buddha Nature

Vacancy – Shunyata

Vacancy is a central understanding in Chan Buddhism, and it’s intently associated to the concept of the Buddha-nature. Every thing is empty of any mounted nature or essence, so all the things is consistently altering. This consists of our personal sense of self, which can also be empty. The belief of vacancy results in a deeper understanding of the Buddha-nature, which is empty too.

Some necessary options on Shunyata or Vacancy

Buddha Weekly Man on top of rock meditation dreamstime l 73662835 Buddhism
A person meditates in nature. Meditation has 10 acknowledged well being advantages based mostly on analysis.

The significance of meditation

Chan Buddhists place an amazing emphasis on meditation as a solution to expertise actuality instantly and develop knowledge and compassion. Meditation is seen as a solution to nonetheless the thoughts and see issues clearly, with out the filters of our ideas and opinions.

Via meditation, we are able to come to know our true nature and the character of actuality. Identical to Buddha reached enlightenment via Dharma observe and meditation, so can also anybody else.


The teacher-student relationship

In Chan Buddhism, the connection between instructor and pupil is seen as important to the awakening course of. The instructor is seen as a information who may help the coed awaken to their true nature, and the coed should have full belief and religion within the instructor.
The teacher-student relationship will not be about mental understanding however a few deep religious connection.


Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh leads walking meditaiton at the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya India.
Zen Grasp Thich Nhat Hanh leads strolling meditation on the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya India.


Chan Buddhism in the present day

In the present day, Chan or Zen Buddhism is practiced all around the world, with facilities in Europe, America, and Asia. Many individuals observe Chan Buddhism as a type of meditation, and others use it as a device for private development and transformation.

Within the West, Chan Buddhism has gained reputation in recent times, with increasingly more individuals excited about its teachings and practices.

It’s typically practiced as a type of meditation, and its instruments are additionally utilized in remedy and counseling.

It doesn’t matter what title it goes by, Chan or Zen, at its core, this observe goals to assist us see actuality clearly as it’s via the observe of meditation. This fashion, we are able to obtain an understanding of the true nature of issues and finally attain enlightenment.


Buddha Weekly Flower Buddha dreamstime l 129625978 Buddhism
The Flower Sermon.





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