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 Her rigel 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, the student wouldn't be able to see the meaning of archery. After much pleading Mr. Herrigal is successful in convincing the teacher that his purpose is for learning the meaning of the zen, and then begin their lessons. Much of the teachings that go on revolve around around the student letting the arrow fire itself. Understanding that the arrow must fire itself, just as in the geese fly themselves. The archer has to let go of the inane things and focus on himself.
It takes much practice for the student to grasp this concept and the teacher brings him through many step. A huge emphasis is put on breathing, which is followed by a long series of events involve just holding the bow. The concept is very similar to the bow, how can the archer expect to hold the bow if he can't even hold himself. Slowly the student develops these internal skills and is able to move. However these teachings last for many years, and before the archer can hit a target right on, the student is set free and the story ends. The point of the work is that although the archer cannot hit the target yet, his inner self hits it every time.
This is one method of teaching the Zen philosophy that became really popular. Finding enlightenment shouldn't be that you hit the target every time, rather that your mind hit's the target every time. This philosophy also relates to the arts and how they are taught. One should consider that "man is the brush on the canvas of time" (p. 16 Zen and Japanese Culture). The purpose of studying an art so extensively is to find satori, as is the whole study of Zen altogether.
When studying zen one must be careful to not believe in a higher being than oneself, this of course means to not act with ego, but of the belief that we are all capable of the same thing, God hasn't intervened with us. In this deeper study of Zen one also gains inner experience to cut to the core on one's being, find the inner self. In the study of arts this concept is stressed more than any other. The belief in Zen is that when one has studied intensively for many years and has used ever source he can for studying and obtaining information, he can reach a level higher than anything else. Man can break through this level by reaching satori, when he has mastered his art and found enlightenment.
The term used for this is called Meiji n, which stand for a man who is more than an expert or specialist, someone who has broken through the highest level. In standard American terms he is referred to as a Creative Genius. Zen teachings have a great respect for the highest level of art and it is significant throughout much of Buddhism. When one reaches Satori it is said that there is a flashing of creative energy, which is tapped into art which turn develops a unique quality.
This quality is called Myo or Yusen, which is not an object, but rather a thing one can feel and discuss, an object with a cloud like quality that just exists. The main point of Zen and its study of art is to point out the genius lies within each of us, it is not something some are born with and others are not, it is brought from the inner when one is able to reach the higher level, or satori. Zen and the military are especially connected in Japan. An in depth study of being a samurai shows how Zen and military morals work together.
Zen teachings often focus more on intuition and relying on the moment rather than focusing on perception or what might happen. In the heat of battle a warrior cannot focus on what might happen, rather acting on what is going on around him. The warrior must fight with a single mind, only reacting on what is going on in front of him rather than all the action taking place behind him or on his side. Zen also limits one; s emotional output, and keeps the mind clear which also helps focus the warrior during combat.
Acting out of rage can cripple one, and put him in situations in which he could be endangered. Zen provides the iron will needed to keep a thoroughly composed soldier, a religion designed for will power. The bushido show a different kind of Zen traits, and have a different focus than most other samurai warriors. They have been trained extensively to be determined to die. Only Zen training could put someone in a position where there mind is open enough to except this.
The bushido are trained everyday to prepare for death, which could strike at anytime. One must have to understand the zen ideals of life, and focus on enlightenment rather than just living life. If one is told that they will find enlightenment through their determination to die. If left alive these warriors will feel as though they have failed, and are cowardly, thus they fight with an urgency unlike most others.
Their desire to obtain complete master of Bushido is unfortunately only obtainable by their demise. This method of training and preparing soldiers is unlike most other and is highly effective in creating the perfect soldier, one that fights with an awareness like none other, and another who trains with the sole purpose of ending up in a fatal situation. Zen Buddhism has had a tremendous impact on Japan and China, influencing the way everything is today. Today Zen is a commonly used term and is widespread about the world. Many Zen centers have been set up, and a greater focus on meditation is quite popular. The Zen boom is just that though, to many people cannot commit themselves to fully dedicating themselves to its teachings and apply it, but if Japan is any measure its success is very positive.
Japan has firmly set itself up as a premier country, with a deep history and a very rich culture of which are developed with the help of Zen Buddhism.