“Zen is not some special state, it is our normal condition, silent, peaceful, awake, without agitation.”
- Master Taisen Deshimaru
Zen is a branch of Mahayana Buddhism closely identified with Japan although it is practised all over the world. It originated in China where it is known as “Chan Buddhism”. Zen stresses personal attainment of enlightenment and does not rely upon the ancient texts.
This is the Zen Master D.T. Suzuki (picture above). If he looks familiar it is because he was one of the models for Yoda in the Star Wars Films. George Lucas was a Great admirer of Master Suzuki.
Zen was heavily influenced by Chinese Taoism and reflects the minimalist Japanese aesthetic. Zen is reductionist in the sense that it sees enlightenment not as something to be gained but something to be regained having been lost. So, Zen is about removing preconceptions more than adding knowledge.
Zen meditation is called “Zazen”. In zazen one is seated upon a mat or a cushion usually in the half lotus position and one focuses on the breath or the energy place just below the navel. One does not so much “quiet” thought or stop thought as one is aware of the stream of thought and allowing them to rise and then pass through.