Three. One to change the light bulb, one to not change the light, and
one to neither change nor not change the bulb.
Zen Buddhism has aspects of both a philosophy and a religion. More than any
other school of Buddhism, Zen emphasizes the
practice of meditation as a way to gain self-knowledge. It places much less
importance on theoretical knowledge, philosophical discussions, and the study
of Buddhist writings when compared to other Buddhist traditions.
Kōans are a common
aid to meditation used particularly by the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism in Japan. These are
typically a short statement, question or dialogue that cannot be rationally
understood. Perhaps the best known kōan is "Two hands clap and there is a
sound; what is the sound of one hand?"
The Frequently Asked Questions list from alt.zen states:
"One of the central points of Zen is intuitive understanding. As a
result, words and sentences have no fixed meaning, and logic is often
irrelevant. Words have meaning only in relation to who is using them, who
they are talking to, and what situation they are used in. Some postings [on
alt.zen] are indeed nonsense; other postings appear to be nonsense at first
but this is because the meaning is all between the lines. Zen and poetry
have gone hand in hand for centuries." 6
Zen originated as a separate tradition within Buddhism in China within the Chán
school of Mahayana Buddhism. Legend states that the earliest appearance of Zen in China
was when Bodhidharma, a Buddhist monk from South India traveled to southern China in the
6th century CE. He is said to have "... faced a wall for nine years, not
speaking for the entire time." 1 Another legend says that his legs atrophied
during the nine years.
Establishment of the Chán school dates from
the 7th century CE. It was exported to Japan as Zen circa 1200
CE, 2 to Korea as Son or
Seon, to Tibet as "bsam gtan" (pronounced "Samten"), and as Thien to Vietnam.
The Japanese name "Zen" was derived from the Chinese term "Chán"
which came from "jhãna in Pãli,
and "dhyãna" in Sanskrit. It refers to
mental concentration or meditative stability. Two schools of Zen arose in Japan: Rinzai and Soto. Both emphasize the
importance of the practice of zazen -- meditating while seated as the path
towards the achievement of enlightenment. 4 The Soto school teaches that one's
awakening typically happens gradually. The Rinzai school teaches that it can
happen in a sudden flash of insight.
The practitioner of zazen typically uses two cushions: a round meditation
cushion called a zafus which sits on a rectangular cushion called a zabuton. The
person sits upwards with their spine straight and with their legs crossed in
either a lotus or half-lotus position. Their hands are placed in their lap with
one hand supporting the other, palms upward with thumbs touching gently.
Periods of sitting meditation may be interspersed with kinhin -- walking
meditation. The individual walks very slowly with each step synchronized to
inhaling and exhaling.
A person's first meditative exercise often involves breath meditation. They
breath from their diaphragm with their mouth closed. Each out-breath is counted.
The mind will inevitably wander. They acknowledge the thought, release it, and
return to concentrate on their breathing. This continues until a previously
selected interval is completed -- sometimes measured with a timer.
This exercise teaches the individual to be present in the moment. 5
Zen Buddhist art:
According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
"Today, ink monochrome painting is the art form most closely associated
with Zen Buddhism. In general, the first Japanese artists to work in this
medium were Zen monks who painted in a quick and evocative manner to express
their religious views and personal convictions. Their preferred subjects
were Zen patriarchs, teachers, and enlightened individuals. In time,
however, artists moved on to secular themes such as bamboo, flowering plums,
orchids, and birds, which in China were endowed with scholarly symbolism.
The range of subject matter eventually broadened to include literary figures
and landscapes, and the painting styles often became more important than
personal expression." 7
Recommended websites on Zen Buddhism: