It all begins with letting go of distracting thoughts and emotions and create space for the world to become part of the mind, body, and soul. Enlightenment is achieved through meditation and realization which is the basis of Zen. To fully comprehend the practice of Zen Buddhism one needs to experience the process and not intellectualize the methods and teachings.
Through historical background, rituals and traditions as well as controversial issues an understanding to the path of enlightenment will become clearer and Zen will be realized.Zen Buddhism originated in India in the 5th century, to the life of a historical Buddha named Siddhartha Gautama. The Buddha had non-verbal communications with his followers in that he had mind to mind transmissions of advanced teachings. It is believed that a Buddhist monk named Bodhidharma who was originally from India was credited with establishing the Zen branch of Buddhism in China. Bodhidharma became known as the first patriarch of Zen.
A series of patriarchs originated throughout various periods and Dynasties in China (“Zen”, 2019). They developed specialized teachings and methods that were observed in distinctive schools. Zen Buddhism was an influential religious force throughout China. In early history, Zen Buddhism became an international phenomenon. After being brought to China, teachings spread to Vietnam, Korea and Japan. Zen Buddhism is still in existence today because of its long history incorporating many changes and various factors. Each period or phase had different types of Zen which either remained influential or simply vanished. Zen Buddhism will continue to be present in modern day society as the religion can be transformed to be compatible with the demands of a modern world.Rituals and traditions of Zen Buddhism have changed over time and from region to region. The perspective about rituals is that the goal is enlightenment and awakening of the practitioner. The ritual most associated with Zen practice is Zazen which is simply seated meditation. This practice occurs at least two times per day; one in the morning and one in the evening. The Zazen ritual has many different variations in respect to when it occurs, its frequency, length, and the time of year.
However, it was and is the basis of a Zen monastic life. “Ritual and Form in Zen Buddhism” (2016) reports “Zen masters have often stressed the idea that the state of mind through ritual or any other practice ought to be performed is a state of ‘no mind’ or ‘no thought’ (para. 6). The ritual is an experience whereby specific emotions, desires, states of mind, actions and certain moods become the focus. Many of the Zen rituals encapsulate Buddhist tradition. There are ordination ceremonies which entail the rejection of secular life and acceptance of dedicating oneself to becoming a monk (“Buddhism”, 2019). There are Shiho ceremonies whereby one is ordained as a master. They also have funerary rites which express the last thoughts of the dead through sacred scriptures read before and after death. “Descriptions of Zen ritual are, therefore, either specific to one region or historical era or text, etc., or generalizations that address tendencies over historical time and geographical space” (“Ritual and Form in Zen Buddhism”, 2016, para. 3).
Zen Buddhism is meant to create a path of enlightenment but, aspects of it can play a role in the deterioration of a person’s mental and emotional state (DeBakcsy, 2013). The religion is focused around the body, mind and spirit through meditation. Meditation also allows for a person to be stripped of their individuality. This removes all the traits they have which makes them unique from the rest of society. DeBakcsy (2013) notes “dark side of karma – instead of misfortunes… they are manifestations of a deep and fundamental wrongness within you” (para. 4). The idea of karma tells followers that issues that occur in their lives occur because there are problems which have to do with the person, creating self – esteem issues. The concept of karma can create guilt due to the fact that it is an idea of cause and effect.
DeBakcsy (2013) tells how Zen has a less noticeable yet very aggressive way of causing suffering:At the end of the day, it’s still true that, in many respects, Buddhism maintains its moral edge over Christianity or Islam handily. That instinct for proselytising unto war which has made both of these religions such distinctly harmful forces in the story of mankind is nowhere present. But, the drive to infect individuals with an inability to appreciate life except through a filter of regret and shame is perhaps even more dangerous in Buddhism for being so very much more subtle. (para. 14)
From the outside looking in Zen Buddhism seems harmless but, it carries affects which are not visible.A path to enlightenment can be found through historical background, rituals and traditions and controversial issues of Zen Buddhism. To genuinely comprehend Zen Buddhism, one must go through the process and not rationalize the beliefs and teachings. Zen revolves around the enlightenment, which can be achieved through meditation and realization. The body, mind, and soul can become one with the world once emotions and distracting thoughts have been let go from the mind.