What Is Zen Buddhism?



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Zen Buddhism, a branch of the Buddhist religion, focuses on reaching satori, a state of enlightenment, through meditation. This form of Buddhism is practiced primarily in Japan and China. Traditional Buddhism was founded in India around 534 B.C. by Siddhartha Gautama, who was called the Buddha. The religion is based on achieving nirvana (a state of complete enlightenment). Although similar to satori, nirvana is achieved through a series of steps involving strict moral discipline not just through meditation. Zen Buddhism was founded in China in the fifth century A.D. by an Indian Buddhist monk named Bodhidarma The main difference between Zen and traditional Buddhism involves the kind of discipline required to achieve enlightenment. According to followers of Zen, the deep meanings of everyday life can be found through self-discipline, meditation, and instruction. Traditional Buddhism, however, stresses extreme moral discipline. Another difference is that Zen Buddhists believe enlightenment can be achieved on Earth, whereas for traditional Buddhists complete enlightenment comes only after death.

Further Information: Penney, Sue. Buddhism. Austin, Tex.: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1997; Wangzu, Madhu Bazaz. Buddhism. New York: Facts On File, 1993; "Zen Buddhism." Elctronic Library. [Online] Available http://www.encyclopedia.com/articles/14158.html, October 20, 2000.

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