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Thread: What are the main differences between Zen and Chan practice?

  1. #1
    Forums Member hornets's Avatar
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    What are the main differences between Zen and Chan practice?

    Hello all,

    I'm hoping some of you could possibly provide me with a few pointers as to what are the main differences between Chinese Chan and Japanese Zen practice?

    Are any of you familiar with the Western Chan Fellowship? They have an affiliated monthly meeting group down the road from me and my curiosity for all things Zen/Chan has been piqued after being lent a copy of 'Hardcore Zen' by Brad Warner.

    I'm aware of differences between the Zen schools thanks to the above book, but would be grateful for any feedback, especially in regards to Western Chan.

    Best wishes

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    Forums Member Abhaya's Avatar
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    Hi hornets,

    Chan and Zen share much in common, both being derived from the same meditation-based practice originally termed jhana/dhyana. The main historical difference is that the Chinese practice of Chan predated the Japanese practice of Zen.

    There are also cultural differences. For instance, Chan is influenced by Taoism as well as elements of Confucianism and may also incorporate some Pureland practices. After all, Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism are China's three major religions and have exerted notable influence on each other, co-existing side by side. Zen is likewise influenced by local customs and beliefs in Japan such as Shinto, a spirit-based set of practices.

    Names will also differ in pronunciation by language: Linji (Chinese) vs. Rinzai (Japanese) and Caodong (Chinese) vs. Soto (Japanese), to give a few examples.

    Other differences I'm aware of include monastic vows. Chinese Chan monks and nuns are celibate and usually vegetarian, while Japanese Zen monks and nuns are not, necessarily.

    The overall teachings remain the same, but teachers' instructions may vary between the two traditions.

    Western Chan has been preserved through lineages in Taiwan, escaping the religious persecution and repression that occurred during the Cultural Revolution in Mainland China. Ven. Master Sheng Yen, whose progressive teachings had modern appeal, was one of the main contributors to the vitality of the Western Chan Fellowship by way of his Western students' efforts.

    Abhaya

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    Forums Member hornets's Avatar
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    Thank you so much for the reply Abhaya. I find it's always good to get the opinion of you folks here. I'm looking forward to attending their next meeting.

    Best wishes

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    Forums Member Abhaya's Avatar
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    Hope it goes well!

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