The Buddha taught that fundamentally all beings are whole and complete, lacking nothing. However, he also said that because of our upside down, delusive thinking, we fail to perceive this. Zen is the school of Buddhism that most emphasizes the importance of finding our way past our delusive thinking and directly seeing into one’s true nature.
Zen is a Japanese word that means meditation. Zen is not a religion in the strict sense of the word and there is no set of beliefs or doctrines to adopt.
The practice of zazen (meditation) is the primary practice in Zen. By calming and centering the mind and inquiring into the nature of self during zazen, we become clearer about the Buddha’s insights and teachings. They become our own insights.
Zen meditation has many other benefits. Practitioners report feeling more grounded, emotionally stable, and more present in their relationships. It can even help with lowering blood pressure and relieving stress.
There are many other practices that work to complement our seated meditation. Chanting, bowing, work, studying, and building community all help us embody and actualize the teachings of Zen.
Although books and reading can be helpful (in moderation) when learning about Zen, the best way is to dive right in. Practicing at a Zen center can be an important part of establishing a regular meditation practice. It can be a challenge to maintain a steady practice on one’s own. Checking in with a teacher is an invaluable way to deepen ones’ understanding and having the support of like-minded individuals can help buoy and encourage ones efforts.