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COOL Archives: Zen

Posted on Wednesday, November 08 @ 23:01:06 UTC by skip

Zen is a form of Mahayana Buddhism that places great importance on moment-by-moment awareness and 'seeing deeply into the nature of things' by direct experience. Zen emerged as a distinct school in China and spread to Vietnam, Korea, Japan, and, in modern times, the rest of the world.


"Zen" is the Japanese pronunciation of the character "禅" which is pronounced "chán" in Mandarin Chinese. The same character is read "Sŏn" in Korean. Zen is a contraction of the seldom-used long form zenna (禅那; Mandarin: chánnà), which derives from "dhyānam" (Sanskrit) or "jhānam" (Pāli), meaning meditation.


The establishment of the Zen school of Buddhism is traditionally attributed to Bodhidharma. Bodhidharma's arrival in China is dated to the Liu Song Dynasty (420–479) in the Continued Biographies of Eminent Monks (645) and to 527[1] in the Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall (952). Though they agree on almost nothing else, all the forms of the Bodhidharma legend concur that he ultimately settled in the kingdom of Wei where he took as disciples Daoyu and Huike. In his "Notes on some artists of the Six Dynasties and the Tang," Paul Pelliot asserts that all accounts of Bodhidharma are legendary. The noted historian J. A. G. Roberts in his book The Complete History of China notes that Zen Buddhism most likely was an indigenous development within China.

Shenxiu, the leader of an early faction of Chan in China
Shenxiu, the leader of an early faction of Chan in China

Shortly before his death, Bodhidharma appointed his disciple Huike to succeed him, making Huike the first Chinese patriarch and the second patriarch of Zen in China. The transmission then passed to the second, third, and fourth patriarchs, of whom little is known beyond their names. The sixth and last patriarch, Huineng (638–713), was one of the giants of Zen history, and all surviving schools regard him as their ancestor. However, the dramatic story of Huineng's life tells that there was a controversy over his claim to the title of patriarch: after being chosen by Hongren, the fifth patriarch, he had to flee by night to Nanhua Temple in the south to avoid the wrath of Hongren's jealous senior disciples. In the middle of the 8th century, monks claiming to be the successors to Huineng, calling themselves the Southern school, cast themselves in opposition to those claiming to succeed Hongren's student Shenxiu (神秀). It was at this point—the debates between these rival factions—that Zen enters the realm of fully documented history. The Southern school eventually became predominant and their rivals died out.

In the following centuries, Zen grew to become the largest sect in Chinese Buddhism. The teachers claiming Huineng's posterity began to branch off into numerous different schools, each with their own special emphasis, but all of which kept the same basic focus on meditational practice, personal instruction and personal experience. During the late Tang and the Song periods, the tradition truly flowered, as a wide number of eminent teachers, such as Mazu (WG: Ma-tsu), Baizhang (Pai-chang; Japanese: Hyakujo), Huangbo (Huang-po; Japanese: Obaku), Linji (Lin-chi; Japanese: Rinzai), and Yunmen (Japanese: Ummon) developed specialized teaching methods, which would variously become characteristic of the five houses (五家) of mature Chinese Zen. The traditional five houses were Caodong (曹洞宗), Linji (臨濟宗), Guiyang (潙仰宗), Fayan (法眼宗), and Yunmen (雲門宗). This list does not include earlier schools such as the Hongzhou (洪州宗) of Mazu.

Over the course of Song Dynasty (960–1279), the Guiyang, Fayan, and Yunmen schools were gradually absorbed into the Linji. During the same period, the various developments of Zen teaching methods crystallized into a technique that was unique to Zen Buddhism: koan practice (described below). According to Miura and Sasaki, "it was during the lifetime of Yüan-wu's successor, Ta-hui Tsung-kao 大慧宗杲 (Daie Sōkō, 1089-1163) that Koan Zen entered its determinative stage."[2] Koan practice was prevalent in the Linji school, to which Yuanwu and Ta-hui (pinyin: Dahui) belonged, but it was also employed on a more limited basis by the Caodong school. The teaching styles and words of the classical masters were collected in such important Zen texts as the Blue Cliff Record (1125) of Yuanwu and The Gateless Gate (1228) of Wumen, recording classic koan cases which would be studied by later generations of students down to the present.

Zen, which had developed into a distinctively Chinese school of Buddhism, became an international phenomenon early in its history. This first occurred in Vietnam, according to the traditional accounts of that country. These traditions state that, in 580, an Indian monk named Vinitaruci (Vietnamese: Tì-ni-đa-lưu-chi) travelled to Vietnam after completing his studies with Sengcan, the third patriarch of Chinese Zen. This, then, would be the first appearance of Vietnamese Zen, or Thien (thiền) Buddhism. The sect that Vinitaruci and his lone Vietnamese disciple founded would become known as the oldest branch of Thien. After a period of obscurity, the Vinitaruci School became one of the most influential Buddhist groups in Vietnam by the 10th century, particularly so under the patriarch Vạn-Hạnh (died 1018). Other early Vietnamese Zen schools included the Vo Ngon Thong (Vô Ngôn Thông), which was associated with the teaching of Mazu, and the Thao Duong (Thảo Đường), which incorporated nianfo chanting techniques; both were founded by Chinese monks. All three of the early schools appear to have largely disintegrated during the Mongol invasions of the 13th century. A new school was founded by one of Vietnam's religious kings; this was the Truc Lam (Trúc Lâm) school, which evinced a deep influence from Confucian and Taoist philosophy. Nevertheless, Truc Lam's prestige waned over the following centuries as Confucianism became dominant in the royal court. In the 17th century, a group of Chinese monks led by Nguyen Thieu (Nguyên Thiều) established a vigorous new school, the Lam Te (Lâm Tế), which is the Vietnamese pronunciation of Linji. A more domesticated offshoot of Lam Te, the Lieu Quan (Liễu Quán) school, was founded in the 18th century and has since been the predominant branch of Vietnamese Zen.

The Zen school began to appear in Korea in the 9th century. During his lifetime, Mazu had begun to attract students from Korea; by tradition, the first Korean to study Zen was named Peomnang. Mazu's successors had numerous Korean students, some of whom returned to Korea and established the Nine Mountain Schools. This was the beginning of Korean Zen, which is called Seon. Among the most notable Seon masters were Jinul (1158–1210), who established a reform movement and introduced koan practice to Korea, and Taego Bou (1301–1382), who studied in China with Linji teacher and returned to unite the Nine Mountain Schools. In modern Korea, by far the largest Buddhist denomination is the Jogye Order, which is essentially a Zen sect; the name Jogye is the Korean equivalent of Caoxi (曹溪), another name for Huineng.

Although the Japanese had known of Zen for centuries, it was not introduced as a separate school until the 12th century, when Myōan Eisai travelled to China and returned to establish a Linji lineage, which is known in Japan as Rinzai. Decades later, Nanpo Jomyo (南浦紹明) also studied Linji teachings in China before founding the Japanese Otokan lineage, the most influential branch of Rinzai. In 1215, Dogen, a younger contemporary of Eisai's, journeyed to China himself, where he became a disciple of the Caodong master Tiantong Rujing. After his return, Dogen established the Soto school, the Japanese branch of Caodong.

The Zen schools also continued to develop in China up to the present.

List of the Chinese Zen Patriarchs

The following are the six Patriarchs of Zen in China as listed in traditional sources:

  1. Bodhidharma (達摩, Chinese: Damo, Japanese: Daruma) about 440 - about 528
  2. Huike (慧可, Japanese: Eka) 487 - 593
  3. Sengcan (僧燦, Japanese: Sōsan) ? - 606
  4. Daoxin (道信, Japanese: Dōshin) 580 - 651
  5. Hongren (弘忍, Japanese: Kōnin) 601 - 674
  6. Huineng (慧能, Japanese: Enō) 638 - 713
Zen teachings and practices

Zen Buddhism is a branch of Mahayana Buddhism, and, as such, its teachings are deeply rooted in those of the Buddha. It draws primarily on Mahāyāna sutras composed in India and China, particularly the Heart Sutra; the Diamond Sutra; the Lankavatara Sutra; the Samantamukha Parivarta, a chapter of the Lotus Sutra; and the Platform Sutra of Huineng. The body of Zen doctrine also includes the recorded teachings of masters in the various Zen traditions.

The Zen schools, like other Buddhist sects, teach the fundamental elements of Buddhist philosophy, including the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, pratitya samutpada, the five precepts, the five skandhas, and the three dharma seals: non-self, impermanence, and dukkha. Zen philosophy also includes teachings specific to Mahayana Buddhism, including the Mahayanan conception of the paramitas and the ideal of the bodhisattva's universal salvific power. Mahayana Buddhist religious figures such as Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, Mañjuśri Bodhisattva, Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, and Amitabha Buddha are venerated in Zen temples along with Śakyamuni Buddha, although Amitabha takes a less prominent role than in many other forms of Mahayana. This is particularly true in the Japanese Soto and Rinzai schools, which conceive of themselves as purer Zen schools, less influenced by other Buddhist sects.

Because Zen developed as a distinct school in medieval China, it also reflects the influence of Chinese philosophy, including Taoism and, to a lesser extent, Confucianism. Different researchers have developed various opinions on the degree of Taoist influence on Zen. It is clear that, in the early centuries of Buddhism's contact with China, it was often described in Taoist terminology for want of indigenous Buddhist expressions in the Chinese language. This trend is noticeable in Zen—for instance, Chinese Zen texts often use the term tao (道, pinyin: dào) in describing Buddhist philosophy. Some modern scholars argue that this influence was fairly superficial, while others argue that it deeply influenced Zen philosophy. An example of the latter is Ray Grigg, whose book The Tao of Zen argues that Zen can best be understood as a form of Taoist philosophy with superficial Buddhist trappings.

Zen is not primarily an intellectual philosophy nor a solitary pursuit. Zen temples emphasize meticulous daily practice, and hold intensive monthly meditation retreats. Practicing with others is valued as a way to avoid the traps of ego. In explaining the Zen Buddhist path to Westerners, Japanese Zen teachers have frequently made the point that Zen is a "way of life" and not solely a state of consciousness. D.T. Suzuki wrote that the aspects of this life are: a life of humility; a life of labor; a life of service; a life of prayer and gratitude; and a life of meditation.

Zen teachings often criticize textual hermeneutics and the pursuit of worldly accomplishments, concentrating primarily on meditation in pursuit of an unmediated awareness of the processes of the world and of the mind. At the same time, however, the Zen school has—perhaps paradoxically—produced a vast corpus of literature. Zen, however, is not a purely passive doctrine: the Chinese Chan master Baizhang (720–814 CE) left behind a famous saying which had been the guiding principle of his life, "A day without work is a day without eating."

D. T. Suzuki asserted that satori (awakening) has always been the goal of every school of Buddhism, but that which distinguished the Zen tradition as it developed in China, Korea, and Japan was a way of life radically different from that of Indian Buddhists. In India, the tradition of the mendicant (bhikkhu) prevailed, but in China social circumstances led to the development of a temple and training-center system in which the abbot and the monks all performed mundane tasks. These included food gardening or farming, carpentry, architecture, housekeeping, administration, and the practice of folk medicine. Consequently, the enlightenment sought in Zen had to stand up well to the demands and potential frustrations of everyday life.


Zen sitting meditation, the core of zen practice, is called zazen (坐禅). During zazen, practitioners usually assume a sitting position such as the lotus, half-lotus, Burmese, or seiza postures. Awareness is directed towards one's posture and breathing. Often, a square or round cushion (zafu) placed on a padded mat (zabuton) is used to sit on; in some cases, a chair may be used. In Rinzai Zen, practitioners typically sit facing the center of the room; while Soto practitioners traditionally sit facing a wall.

In Soto Zen, shikantaza meditation ("just-sitting") that is, a meditation with no objects, anchors, or content, is the primary form of practice. Considerable textual, philosophical, and phenomenological justification of this practice can be found in Dogen's Shobogenzo. Rinzai Zen, instead, emphasizes attention to the breath and koan practice (q.v.).

The amount of time spent daily in zazen by practitioners varies. Dogen recommends that five minutes or more daily is beneficial for householders. The key is daily regularity, as Zen teaches that the ego will naturally resist, and the discipline of regularity is essential. Practicing Zen monks may perform four to six periods of zazen during a normal day, with each period lasting 30 to 40 minutes. Normally, a monastery will hold a monthly retreat period (sesshin), lasting between one and seven days. During this time, zazen is practiced more intensively: monks may spend four to eight hours in meditation each day, sometimes supplemented by further rounds of zazen late at night.

This Japanese scroll calligraphy of Bodhidharma reads “Zen points directly to the human heart, see into your nature and become Buddha”.  It was created by Hakuin Ekaku (1685-1768)
This Japanese scroll calligraphy of Bodhidharma reads “Zen points directly to the human heart, see into your nature and become Buddha”. It was created by Hakuin Ekaku (1685-1768)

Dogen's teacher Rujing was said to sleep fewer than four hours each night, spending the balance in zazen

Meditation as a practice can be applied to any posture. Walking meditation is called kinhin. Successive periods of zazen are usually interleaved with brief periods of walking meditation to relieve the legs.

The teacher

Because the Zen tradition emphasizes direct communication over scriptural study, the role of the Zen teacher has traditionally been central. Generally speaking, a Zen teacher is a person ordained in any tradition of Zen to teach the dharma, guide students of meditation, and perform rituals.

An important concept for all Zen sects in East Asia is the notion of Dharma transmission the claim of a line of authority that goes back to the Buddha via the teachings of each successive master to each successive student. This concept relates to the ideas expressed in a description of Zen attributed to Bodhidharma:

A special transmission outside the scriptures; (教外別傳) No dependence upon words and letters; (不立文字) Direct pointing to the human mind; (直指人心) Seeing into one's own nature and attaining Buddhahood. (見性成佛)[4]
Since at least the Middle Ages, a claim to Dharma transmission has been a normative aspect of all Zen sects. John McRae’s study “Seeing Through Zen” explores this assertion of lineage as a distinctive and central aspect of Zen Buddhism. He writes of this “genealogical” approach so central to Zen’s self-understanding, that while not without precedent, has unique features. It is “relational (involving interaction between individuals rather than being based solely on individual effort), generational (in that it is organized according to parent-child, or rather teacher-student, generations) and reiterative (i.e., intended for emulation and repetition in the lives of present and future teachers and students.”

McRae offers a detailed criticism of lineage, but he also notes it is central to Zen. So much so that it is hard to envision any claim to Zen that discards claims of lineage. Therefore, for example, in Japanese Soto lineage charts become a central part of the Sanmatsu, the documents of Dharma transmission. And it is common for daily chanting in Zen temples and monasteries to include the lineage of the school, in whole or in part, reciting the names of all dharma ancestors and teachers that have transmitted Zen teaching.

In Japan during the Tokugawa period (1600–1868), some came to question the lineage system and its legitimacy. The Zen master Dokuan Genko (1630–1698), for example, openly questioned the necessity of written acknowledgement from a teacher, which he dismissed as "paper Zen." The only genuine transmission, he insisted, was the individual's independent experience of Zen enlightenment, an intuitive experience that needs no external confirmation. An occasional teacher in Japan during the Tokugawa period did not adhere to the lineage system; these were termed mushi dokugo (無師獨悟, "independently enlightened without a teacher") or jigo jisho (自悟自証, "self-enlightened and self-certified"). They were generally dismissed and perhaps of necessity leave no independent transmission. Nevertheless, modern Zen Buddhists also consider questions about the dynamics of the lineage system, inspired in part by academic research into the history of Zen.

Honorific titles associated with teachers typically include, in Chinese, Fashi (法師) or Chanshi (禪師); in Korean, Sunim or Seon Sa (선사); in Japanese, Osho (和尚), Roshi (老師), or Sensei (先生); and in Vietnamese, Thầy. Note that many of these titles are not specific to Zen but are used generally for Buddhist priests; some, such as sensei are not even specific to Buddhism.

The English term Zen master is often used to refer to important teachers, especially ancient and medieval ones. However, there is no specific criterion by which one may be called a Zen master. The term is less common in reference to modern teachers.

Koan practice

Chinese character for
Chinese character for "no thing." Chinese: (Japanese: mu).

Some Zen Buddhists practice meditation on koans during zazen. A koan (literally "public case") is a story or dialog, generally related to Zen or other Buddhist history; the most typical form is an anecdote involving early Chinese Zen masters. Koan practice is particularly emphasized by the Japanese Rinzai schools, but it also occurs in other forms of Zen.
According to one view, a koan embodies a realized principle, or law of reality. Koans often appear paradoxical or linguistically meaningless dialogs or questions. The 'answer' to the koan involves a transformation of perspective or consciousness, which may be either radical or subtle, possibly akin to the experience of metanoia in Christianity. They are a tool to allow the student to approach enlightenment by essentially 'short-circuiting' the logical way we order the world. In order to try to answer these often unanswerable problems, the thinker may be forced to create new mental pathways. Those pathways then may be useful for other problems, thus producing a "mind expansion" effect.

The Zen student's mastery of a given koan is presented to the teacher in a private interview, referred to as dokusan (独参), daisan (代参), or sanzen (参禅). Zen teachers advise that the problem posed by a koan is to be taken quite seriously, and to be approached as literally a matter of life and death. Koans do not have "no answer". There is a sharp distinction between right and wrong ways of answering a koan—although there may be many "right answers", practitioners are expected to demonstrate their understanding of the koan and of Zen through their answers.

While there is no single correct answer for any given koan, there are compilations of accepted answers to koans that serve as references for teachers. These collections are of great value to modern scholarship on the subject.

Zen in Japan

Rinzai monk in Arashiyama, Kyoto
Rinzai monk in Arashiyama, Kyoto

The schools of Zen that currently exist in Japan are the Soto (曹洞), Rinzai (臨済), and Obaku (黃檗). Of these, Soto is the largest and Obaku the smallest. Rinzai is itself divided into several subschools, including Myoshin-ji, Nanzen-ji, Tenryū-ji, Daitoku-ji, and Tofuku-ji.

The Rinzai and Soto schools were founded in the 13th century and shortly before. Obaku, on the other hand, was introduced in the 17th century by Ingen, a Chinese monk. Ingen had been a member of the Linji school, the Chinese equivalent of Rinzai, which had developed separately from the Japanese branch for hundreds of years. Thus, when Ingen journeyed to Japan following the fall of the Ming Dynasty to the Manchus, his teachings were seen as a separate school. The Obaku school was named for Mount Obaku (Chinese: Huangboshan), which had been Ingen's home in China.

Some contemporary Japanese Zen teachers, such as Daiun Harada and Shunryu Suzuki, have criticized Japanese Zen as being a formalized system of empty rituals in which very few Zen practitioners ever actually attain realization. They assert that almost all Japanese temples have become family businesses handed down from father to son, and the Zen priest's function has largely been reduced to officiating at funerals.

The Japanese Zen establishment—including the Soto sect, the major branches of Rinzai, and several renowned teachers— has been criticized for its involvement in Japanese militarism and nationalism during World War II and the preceding period. A notable work on this subject was Zen at War (1998) by Brian Victoria, an American-born Soto priest. This openness has allowed non-Buddhists to practice Zen, especially outside of Asia, and even for the curious phenomenon of an emerging Christian Zen lineage, as well as one or two lines that call themselves "nonsectarian." With no official governing body, it's perhaps impossible to declare any authentic lineage "heretical." Some schools emphasize lineage and trace their line of teachers back to Japan, Korea, Vietnam or China; other schools do not.

Zen in the Western world

Although it is difficult to trace when the West first became aware of Zen as a distinct form of Buddhism, the visit of Soyen Shaku, a Japanese Zen monk, to Chicago during the World Parliament of Religions in 1893 is often pointed to as an event that enhanced its profile in the Western world. It was during the late 1950s and the early 1960s that the number of Westerners, other than the descendants of Asian immigrants, pursuing a serious interest in Zen reached a significant level.

Zen and Western culture

In Europe, the Expressionist and Dada movements in art tend to have much in common thematically with the study of koans and actual Zen. The early French surrealist René Daumal translated D.T. Suzuki as well as Sanskrit Buddhist texts.

Eugen Herrigel's book Zen in the Art of Archery (1953)[5], describing his training in the Zen-influenced martial art of Kyudo, inspired many of the Western world's early Zen practitioners. However, many scholars are quick to criticize this book.

The British-American philosopher Alan Watts took a close interest in Zen Buddhism and wrote and lectured extensively on it during the 1950s. He understood it as a vehicle for a mystical transformation of consciousness, and also as a historical example of a non-Western, non-Christian way of life that had fostered both the practical and fine arts.

The Dharma Bums, a novel written by Jack Kerouac and published in 1959, gave its readers a look at how a fascination with Buddhism and Zen was being absorbed into the bohemian lifestyles of a small group of American youths, primarily on the West Coast. Beside the narrator, the main character in this novel was "Japhy Ryder", a thinly-veiled depiction of Gary Snyder. The story was based on actual events taking place while Snyder prepared, in California, for the formal Zen studies that he would pursue in Japanese monasteries between 1956 and 1968.

Thomas Merton (1915–1968) the Trappist monk and priest [1] was internationally recognized as having one of those rare Western minds which was entirely at home in Asian experience. Like his friend, the late D.T. Suzuki, Merton believed that there must be a little of Zen in all authentic creative and spriritual experience. The dialogue between Merton and Suzuki (Wisdom in Emptiness" in: Zen and the Birds of Appetite, 1968) explores the many congruencies of Christian mysticism and Zen. (Main publications: The Way of Chuang Tzu, 1965; Mystics and Zen Masters, 1967; Zen and the Birds of Appetite, 1968).

While Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsig, was a 1974 bestseller, it in fact has little to do with Zen per se. Rather it deals with the notion of the metaphysics of "quality" from the point of view of the main character. Pirsig was attending the Minnesota Zen Center at the time of writing the book[2]. He has stated that, despite its title, the book "should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice".

Western Zen lineages

Over the last fifty years, mainstream forms of Zen, led by teachers who trained in East Asia and by their successors, have begun to take root in the West. In North America, the Zen lineages derived from the Japanese Soto school are the most numerous type. Among these are the lineage of the San Francisco Zen Center, established by Shunryu Suzuki; the White Plum Asanga, founded by Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi; Big Mind founded by Dennis Genpo Merzel; the Ordinary Mind school, founded by Joko Beck, one of Maezumi's heirs; and the Katagiri lineage, founded by Dainin Katagiri, which has a significant presence in the Midwest. Note that both Taizan Maezumi and Dainin Katagiri served as priests at Zenshuji Soto Mission in the 1960's.

Taisen Deshimaru, a student of Kodo Sawaki, was a Soto Zen priest from Japan who taught in France. The International Zen Association, which he founded, remains influential. The American Zen Association, headquartered at the New Orleans Zen Temple, is one of the North American organizations practicing in the Deshimaru tradition.

The Sanbo Kyodan is a Japan-based reformist Zen group, founded in 1954 by Yasutani Hakuun, which has had a significant influence on Zen in the West. Sanbo Kyodan Zen is based primarily on the Soto tradition, but also incorporates Rinzai-style koan practice. Yasutani's approach to Zen first became prominent in the English-speaking world through Philip Kapleau's book The Three Pillars of Zen (1965), which was one of the first books to introduce Western audiences to Zen as a practice rather than simply a philosophy. Among the Zen groups in North America, Hawaii, Europe, and New Zealand which derive from Sanbo Kyodan are those associated with Kapleau, Robert Aitken, and John Tarrant.

There are also a number of Rinzai Zen centers in the West, such as the Rinzaiji lineage of Kyozan Joshu Sasaki and the Dai Bosatsu lineage established by Eido Shimano.

Not all the successful Zen teachers in the West have been from Japanese traditions. There have also been teachers of Chan, Seon, and Thien Buddhism.

Covering over 480 acres of land and located in Ukiah, California, the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas was founded by Hsuan Hua.
Covering over 480 acres of land and located in Ukiah, California, the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas was founded by Hsuan Hua.

The first Chinese Buddhist priest to teach Westerners in North America was Hsuan Hua, who taught Zen, Chinese Pure Land, Tiantai, Vinaya, and Vajrayana Buddhism in San Francisco during the early 1960s. He went on to found the City Of Ten Thousand Buddhas, a monastery and retreat center located on a 237 acre (959,000 m²) property near Ukiah, California. Another Chinese Zen teacher with a Western following is Sheng-yen, a master trained in both the Caodong and Linji schools (equivalent to the Japanese Soto and Rinzai, respectively). He first visited the United States in 1978 under the sponsorship of the Buddhist Association of the United States, and, in 1980, founded the Ch’an Mediation Society in Queens, New York.

The most prominent Korean Zen teacher in the West was Seung Sahn. Seung Sahn founded the Providence Zen Center in Providence, Rhode Island; this was to become the headquarters of the Kwan Um School of Zen, a large international network of affiliated Zen centers.

Two notable Vietnamese Zen teachers have been influential in Western countries: Thich Thien-An and Thich Nhat Hanh. Thich Thien-An came to America in 1966 as a visiting professor at UCLA and taught traditional Thien meditation. Thich Nhat Hanh was a monk in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, during which he was a peace activist. In response to these activities, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967 by Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1966, he left Vietnam in exile and now resides at Plum Village, a monastery in France. He has written more than one hundred books about Buddhism, which have made him one of the very few most prominent Buddhist authors among the general readership in the West. In his books and talks, Thich Nhat Hanh emphasizes mindfulness (sati) as the most important practice in daily life.

Source: Wikipedia

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