noun \ˈzen\

: a Japanese form of Buddhism that emphasizes meditation

Full Definition of ZEN

:  a Japanese sect of Mahayana Buddhism that aims at enlightenment by direct intuition through meditation

Origin of ZEN

Japanese, religious meditation
First Known Use: 1727

Other Religion (Eastern and Other) Terms

antinomian, avatar, gnosticism, illuminati, ineffable, karma, koan, mantra

Rhymes with ZEN


noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)

Important school of Buddhism that claims to transmit the experience of enlightenment achieved by the Buddha Gautama. Arising as Chan in China in the 6th century (introduced by Bodhidharma), it divided into two schools, the Southern school, which believed in sudden enlightenment, and the Northern school, which believed in gradual enlightenment. By the 8th century only the Northern school survived. Zen developed fully in Japan by the 12th century and had a significant following in the West by the later 20th century. Zen teaches that the potential to achieve enlightenment is inherent in everyone but lies dormant because of ignorance. It is best awakened not by the study of scripture, the practice of good deeds, rites and ceremonies, or worship of images, but by breaking through the boundaries of mundane logical thought. Methods employed vary among different schools and may emphasize the practice of zazen (in the Soto school), the use of koans (in the Rinzai school), or the continual invocation of Amida (in the Obaku school; see Amitabha).


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