Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism.
The word zen is the abbreviation of zenna which is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word 禪 那 chánnà, which in turn comes from the Sanskrit word ध्यान dhiana, meaning ‘meditation’. It should be noted that the Japanese teacher Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki equates dhyāna with zazen (in Chinese 坐禅 zuòchán, ‘seated meditation’).
Moving away from theoretical or intellectual knowledge, Zen seeks the experience of wisdom beyond rational discourse. Zen teachings include various sources of mahāyāna thought, including the Prajñá-paramitá literature such as Prajñāpāramitā-sūtra and the teachings of Yogachara and the Tathagatagarbha school.
Zen emerged from different Buddhist schools and was first registered in China in the 7th century, then dispersed to the south to Vietnam and east to Korea and Japan. Traditionally the credit is given to bring Zen to China to Bodhidharma, a prince converted into a monk from the Pallava Dynasty (of South India), who came to China to:
teach a special transmission outside the scriptures, not found in words or letters.
Zen is one of the most well-known and appreciated Buddhist schools in the West. With the popular Japanese name zen usually refers to a wide range of schools and practices of this type of Buddhism in many regions of Asia.
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