There are many
Schools of Buddhism. They differ not in the final
objective of reaching Buddhahood, but in their
emphasis on different methods of practice.
important and influential school is Zen (also
called Chan/Ch'an in Chinese 2).
Zen's origin goes back to the Buddha. One day, an
assembly gathered to hear the Buddha's Dharma
talk. However, on that day, instead of speaking,
the Buddha simply held up a flower and gazed at
the assembly. No one understood the meaning except
for one of Buddha's disciples, Mahakasyapa, who
broke into a smile. Thereupon the Buddha said, "I
have the supreme teaching, inexpressible by words
and speech, the true Eye of the Dharma, the
profound Mind of Nirvana, the Reality transcending
all forms; which I now pass on to Mahakasyapa."
Thus was the first transmission of the
"mind-seal", and Mahakasyapa became known as the
first Patriarch of Zen.
The Zen lineage
continued in India until the time when the 28th
Patriarch, Bodhidharma, sailed to China and passed
on the teaching. Bodhidharma became known as the
first Patriarch of Chinese Zen. Thereafter Zen
flourished in China, especially after the great
Sixth Patriarch, Hui-Neng. Throughout the ages
there were many enlightened masters, as well as
notable Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese masters.
Today, all forms of Chan or Zen practice trace
their root to Bodhidharma and Hui-Neng.
What is Zen?
Practically, we may say that it is a state of
mind, a mind of calmness, stability, and clarity;
a mind free of delusions and confusions; a mind in
accord with true Reality. It is not a dull mind,
but one full of infinite potentials. Such a mind
is the source of wisdom; it is a state of true
liberation and joy. To achieve the Zen state of
mind, proper meditation practice is very
important. Meditation helps us to focus, calm
down, become aware, and begin to see things as
they are. A properly trained mind is one ready for
Principle of Causality
The Principle of
Causality is a basic teaching in Buddhism; it
describes a fundamental aspect of nature. It
states that every phenomenon comes into being due
to various causes and conditions. When the right
cause and conditions come together, the right
result or phenomenon arises. However, when the
conditions fall apart, things fall apart. This is
the way of all life.
Science, in fact,
is based on causality. Things do not happen by
accident but are related by causes. The task of
the scientist is to discover the correct causal
relationships. Buddhist causality, however, is
wider in scope. It deals with both mental and
says, "To know what you've done in the past,
observe what is happening to you in this life. To
know what will happen in the future, observe what
you are doing in this life." This verse contains
the key to understanding our fate. As with all
phenomena, our fate also follows the Principle of
to us in this life is due to previous cause and
conditions, due to actions we ourselves have
performed. Whenever we perform certain actions ,
we create karma, which means our actions have some
effects on the rest of the world. When the effects
are beneficial, it is called good karma; when the
effects are harmful, it is called bad karma.
Actions lead to reactions. When we benefit others,
we generate good karma and will receive blessings
in the future. When we hurt others, we generate
bad karma and will be hurt in the future. This is
a natural law, the Law of Causality stated in the
simplest way (its actual workings are much more
2. From 9th century A.D.
onward, Chinese Chan Buddhism spread to Japan,
Korea, and Vietnam. It is called Zen in Japanese.
In the 20th century, several Japanese masters came
to America to teach Zen, and therefore most
Westerners know Zen but not its original name