History of Zen Buddhism and its Meditation Essence

Ammar Hassan
5 min readFeb 20, 2021

As we already heard about the term Zen, when it comes to our mind our perception is usually around a calm meditated environment with amicable tradition and captivating grassy landscapes with true mindful meditation essence.

But do you ever think from where this word “Zen,” is derived from? What is the ancestral connection of Zen with Buddhism? From where it originated and the real memoir behind this tradition of meditation.

Brief History of “Zen” Tradition

The Japanese term Zen is acquired from the Chinese middle word “chán”, also called “chánnà”. Which is extracted from the Sanskrit word “dhyāna” an Indian word, which indicates attentive concentration or meditation.

The ancient Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China from 618 to 907 when the Buddhist tradition Zen was originated.

From China Zen emerges to Japan, Korea, and the Asian countries where Zen continued to flourish. Bodhidharma was an Indian monachus (Monk), who is considered as the initiator and legal originator of Zen Buddhism who lived during the 5th or 6th century.

Japanese scholar Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki was an author of the books on Shin, Zen, and Buddhism. In this way, Zen tradition was influentially popularised in the West from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Zen Meditation Buddhism

After a stay in the Chinese region, the Japanese monk Dogen in the 13-century led and escorted Soto Zen to Japan. In this current 20th century, western people started to become fascinated with Zen ideology.

Zanen Buddhist Postures

Zen meditation involves sitting with an erect spine with semi-opened eyes with crossed legs position and hands are overlapped together in such a way that it forms the mudra. In Zanen people frequently sit in a hall, generally known as Zendo.

Practitioners usually think about nothing and they also try to avoid mindfulness that pops up simultaneously. During the meditation process, the cushion which is used for sitting is called Zafu which is placed on a thin mat, called Zabuton.

Mokekkafuza (full-lotus)

Hankafuza (half-lotus)

Seiza (a kneeling posture using a bench or zafu pillow)

Burmese (a cross-legged position in which the ankles are placed together)

Monk in Zen Meditation Posture

Essence & Benefits of Zen Meditation

Practitioners who involve in Zen traditional meditation can feel clear observing and letting go of mindfulness and thoughts. Zen meditation spiritually delves much deeper as compared to other less effective meditations.

Our society is facing serious psychological issues that are generally related to anxiety and depressions, in order to get rid of these acute issues we have to practice Zen regularly. Our spiritual cure and its deepest essence are directly related to practicing Zen.

Zen was perfectly described by the famous Buddhist master “Bodhidharma” as “A special transmission outside the teachings; not established upon words and letters; directly pointing to the human heart-mind; seeing nature and becoming a Buddha”.

Practicing Zen refine us spiritually as well as physically in numerous ways: which include a better immune system, lower blood pressure, and overcoming anxiety and psychological stress. We can enjoy better slumber at night without any mental burden.

We can easily identify core issues and disaffection related to our life that we all face frequently. Zen meditation tends to divert our focus from mental and physical issues by relaxing us with inner peace.

Impact on the Brain

By practicing Zen meditation volunteers enhance their self-awareness by controlling anxiety which is an anticipation of future concern and avoidance behavior. It helps in increasing the strength and endurance of your attention.

In drug abuse treatment programs, zen meditation is often used to improve the autonomic nervous system.

Unconscious Access

Activities related to the conscious mind within an individual such as self-awareness, sensations, memories, and unique thoughts that proceed without any awareness can be reduced by meditation related to Zanen.

The unconscious mind is relatively more creative and helpful in achieving ultimate goals and can lead us to be more focused individuals rather than the conscious minds.

Key to Spiritual Happiness

Our inner peace and spiritual calmness don’t rely on being wealthy or famous; it lies in our physical as well as mental health. Zen Buddhist teaches us to help others, in return, we will be helped from spiritual paths.

Renowned Zen master once said, “If you seek inner peace you won’t be able to find it, but the act of giving up the idea of such a reward in itself — and focusing instead on others’ happiness — creates the possibility for lasting peace”.

Zen schools also practice koans that are the succinct paradoxical questions from Buddhist masters to the students.

Buddhist masters test their students with these riddles, and there should be a strong relationship between a dedicated Zen Master and a devoted Zen student.

A famous koan by Zen master is, “When both hands clap a sound is produced; listen to the sound of one hand clapping”

Scrutiny of the Breath

Observation of the breath is generally more specific in the way it moves in and moves out of the body in a meditative posture. Zen is a prevailing awareness of presence and attention.

Usually, it involves counting breaths from 1 to 10, some practitioners say there is no counting of breaths in practicing Zen meditation.

Noiseless Consciousness

Our pondering thoughts are always rushing in our mind as we think and assume every single situation, but in Zanen meditation, one must learn to allow rapid flow of thoughts from his mind without any decisions, with no alteration and holding on of thoughts.

Practitioners should focus on their breathing mechanism rather than concentrating on the stream of thoughts. We shouldn't serve them anything that makes thoughts stay.

The Japanese People practice noiseless meditation techniques without any proper position and props for practice. This practice is known as “sitting alone” or shikantaza.

Traditional Group Meditation

A sesshin is a short traditional meditation period held in the monastery of Buddhist monks. Generally, this type of intensive group meditation is practiced daily in Zendo centers and Buddhist temples.

Each group session lasts about 30 to 50 minutes daily is carried out with short breaks, meals in oryoki bowls, and seldom short spam work. This practice mostly consists of sitting in silence with mannerism.

While sometimes the meditation is interrupted by small talks and meetings (dokusan) and public talks (tiesho) with a Zen Master.

Nowadays these traditional Zen meditation practices are flourishing in Japan, Taiwan, and Western countries.

Final Conclusions

In this world of illusions and mind games with no spiritual comfort, we must have something that makes us physically and mentally fit. That’s how we can feel unburdened with actual aspects of life that drive us near our goals.

Practicing Zen can improve blood pressure with a better immune system. It can normalize the rate of heartbeat with a tension-free ambiance.

Environmental issues are the basic cause of unruffled minds that exaggerate those unseen issues that can cause unfocused and absenteeism mode in life.

Zen practice is influencing day by day due to its meditative essence and core problems solving capabilities with effortless activities and no harsh techniques.



Ammar Hassan

Amazon Affiliate Blogger and Freelance Writer. For assistance and services contact me at ammarhassan700@icloud.com/ Visit my Website — https://menhairline.com