Zen (Chinese Chan禪 )
The word “Zen” (Chinese Chan禪) means Buddha-mind, was transmitted from the Buddha to his disciple first patriarch Mahakashyapa, down to 28th patriarch Bodhidharma, then transmitted from Bodhidharma to China. It is transmitted heart-to heart, or the “Seal” of Buddha-mind, directly point to the pure mind. This transmission is beyond religion, words or languages, form and formless, beyond time and space.
Dhyana or Jhana, modern interpretation as “meditation”. This practice has traced back to ancient India ascetics practices of the Jains and Upanishads. The new interpretation was first found in the tripitaka and not in any pre-Buddhist text.
The stratification of particular Samadhi experiences into the four Arupajhana. infinite space. infinite consciousness, infinite nothingness , neither perception nor non-perception, and referred to as the four “formless states” (of the mind ) which lead to state of perfect equanimity and awareness.
The Buddha Shakyamuni left his palace, set out to seek a solution for spiritual enlightenment, he had learned from two teachers; Arada Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta. These practices of Jhana were paired to mindfulness and insight. According to legend, he learned two kinds of meditation, did not lead him to enlightenment. He then underwent harsh ascetic practices with which he eventually realized that asceticism was not leading to enlightenment either, through the middle-way, he became disillusioned and gained insight into the Four Noble Truths, and found solutions to cessation of suffering, his experience must have been of such a nature that it could bear the interpretation” achieving immortality”, attained complete enlightenment.
Here we need to understand that, harsh ascetic practices was not the way to achieve enlightenment, it is the Middle-way that lead Siddhartha Gautama to attain enlightenment.
the state of “neither perception nor non-perception”.彌勒菩薩中觀論The Middle Way is the term that Siddhartha Gautama used to describe the character of the path he discovered that leads to liberation. It is a state without an object of awareness, that is not devoid of awareness, or a state of “cessation of perception”.
In the “Platform of the Six Patriarch” (Chinese: 六祖壇經)
The famous story of the Six Patriarch; Hui-Neng was born into the Lu family in 638 A.D. in Xin-zhou (present-day Xin-xing County) in Guang-Dong province. His father died when he was young and his family was poor. As a consequence, Hui-Neng had no opportunity to learn to read or write and is said to have remained illiterate his entire life.
The first chapter of the Platform Sutra ( Collection of teachings of the six patriarch Hui-Neng ) tells the well-known story of the Dharma-transmission from Hong-Ren to Hui-Neng. Hong-Ren asked his students to…
… write me a stanza (gatha) He who understands what the Essence of Mind is will be given the robe (the insignia of the Patriarchate) and the Dharma (the ultimate teaching of the Chan school), and I shall make him the Sixth Patriarch.
Only Shen-Xiu wrote a poem, anonymously on the wall in the middle of the night. It stated:
身是菩提樹， The body is a Bodhi tree, 心如明鏡臺。 The mind a standing mirror bright. 時時勤拂拭， At all times polish it diligently, 勿使惹塵埃。 And let no dust alight.
(Note: On the path of constant practice – stages to enlightenment )
After having read this poem aloud to him, Hui-neng asked an officer to write another gatha on the wall for him, next to Shen-Xiu’s, which stated:
菩提本無樹， Bodhi is originally without any tree; 明鏡亦非臺。 The bright mirror is also not a stand. 本來無一物， Originally there is not a single thing — 何處惹塵埃。 Where could any dust be attracted?
(Note: Achieved insight into the absolute nature of reality, which is more advance than Shen-Xiu’s understanding )
At the beginning of the Song Dynasty (宋朝), practice with the kōan method became popular. A koan, literally “public case”, is a story or dialogue, describing an interaction between a Zen master and a student. Koans emphasize the non-conceptional insight that the Buddhist teachings are pointing to. Koans can be used to provoke the “great doubt”, and test a student’s progress in Chan realization (禪的証悟) .
Koan inquiry may be practiced during sitting meditation , walking meditation , and throughout all the activities of daily life. The Zen student’s mastery of a given kōan is presented to the teacher in a private interview While there is no unique answer to a kōan, practitioners are expected to demonstrate their understanding of the koan and of Zen through their responses. The teacher may approve or disapprove of the answer and guide the student in the right direction.
So, Zen is non-conceptional insight, direct insight of true reality, the mind is pure, it is non- contaminated, the mind is neutral, non-attachment of all phenomena, non-judgmental, view all thing with true spirit, as is “suchness”, not good or bad, not inside nor outside, not right nor wrong (due to cause and effect). This is true meaning of the middle way. This state of mind is exhibited in the Heart Sutra (of the Prajna Paramitas Sutra.) Form is emptiness, emptiness is form, it is non-dual. Therefore, true self is no other than the self, here and now.
Recovering of true self, is completely abandoning greed, hatred, endless desires, jealousy, doubts. Attained through comprehension of the Buddha-Dharma, and insight meditation.