How did Zen Buddhism develop historically?
What are the characteristics of Zen meditative practice?
1. How did Zen Buddhism develop historically?
Zen (Ch'an in China) Buddhism represents a sectarian movement within the Buddhist religion that stresses the practice of meditation as the means to enlightenment. Zen and Ch'an are, respectively, Japanese and Chinese attempts to render the Sanskrit word for meditation, dhyana.
"Zen's roots may be traced to India, but it was in East Asia that the movement became distinct and flourished. Like other Chinese Buddhist sects, Ch'an first established itself as a lineage of masters emphasizing the teachings of a particular text, in this case the Lankavatara Sutra. Bodhidharma, the first Ch'an patriarch in China, who is said to have arrived there from India c. 470 AD, was a master of this text. He also emphasized the practice of contemplative sitting, and legend has it that he himself spent 9 years in meditation facing a wall. With the importance of lineages, Ch'an stressed the master - disciple relationship, and Bodhidharma was followed by a series of patriarchs each of whom received the Dharma (religious truth) directly from his predecessor and teacher. By the 7th century, however, splits in the line of transmission began to develop, the most important of which was between Shen - hsiu (606 - 706) and Hui - neng (638 - 713), disciples of the 5th patriarch, Hung - jen. According to a later and clearly biased legend, Hui - neng defeated Hung - jen in a stanza - composing contest, thereby demonstrating his superior enlightenment. He was then secretly named 6th patriarch but had to flee south for fear of his rival's jealousy. The split between Shen - hsiu and Hui - neng accounts ...
This solution exmaines how Zen Buddhism developed historically, including a supplementary informative article. It also describes the characteristics of Zen meditative practice.