Korean Seon

Seon Buddhism (Korean: 선, 禪; IPA: [sŏn]) is the transformative facture of Chan Buddhism tradition and creed in Korea. A main feature of Seon Buddhism is a method of meditation, Ganhwa Seon (Korean: 간화선/看話禪). A Korean monk, Jinul (Korean: 지눌/知訥) accepted partially a meditative method of Chan Buddhism in 1205. In Chan Buddhism, hwadu (Korean: 화두/話頭) was a delivery of realising a natural state of the Awakening. Jinul addressed a doctrine of Sagyo Yiepseon (Korean: 사교입선/捨敎入禪)) that monks should live an inborn life after learning and forgetting all creeds and theories. Within the doctrine of Jinul, hwadu is the witnessing of truthful meaning in everyday life.[1]

History of Seon

During the Goryeo dynasty Jinul strongly influenced Korean Buddhism. He was the first monk to be appointed a national teacher and advisor by the king, having written a book presenting the Seon tradition from the Song dynasty.[2] And this Seon tradition preserved well to this day, after Taego Bou brought his Dharma transmission to Goryeo.[3]

The Joseon dynasty suppressed buddhism in favour of confucianism. In spite of the suppression, Hyujeong wrote about the three religions (Seon Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism) in the Joseon dynasty from Seon point of view. He also succeeded to the Dharma transmission. During the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–98), Hyujeong and Yujeong commanded guerrilla units of monks and took part in diplomacy. [4]

Under annexation by Japan most monks were forced to marry - this lasted about 40 years until the act of purification. [5]During those times, masters like Gyoengheo and Mangong kept Dharma transmission alive.

21th centry, the few left this Dharma transmission. "남진제 북송담'(南眞際 北松潭) (Jinje to the south, Songdam to the north)."[6] is well-known phrase in Korean seon tradition these days. Others are Seungsahn, Daewon.

Monk seon
Seon bhikṣuṇī in Seoul, South Korea

Unified Silla Period (668–935)

Transmission of Chan to Korea

Chan was transmitted into Unified Silla (668-935).[7][8][web 1] Beomnang (法朗, Pŏmnang, Peomnang) (632-646), who studied with the Fourth Patriarch Dayi Daoxin (道信) (580-651), was the first to bring the teachings to Korea.[7][8] Beomnang transmitted his teachings to Sinhaeng (神行) (704-779), who also traveled to China. Sinhaeng studied with Puji (651–739), a successor of Yuquan Shenxiu (died 706), the head of the East Mountain Teaching of Chan.[8] Seon was further popularized by Doui (道義) (died 825) at the beginning of the ninth century.

Nine Schools

Seon was gradually further transmitted into Korea, as Korean monks of predominantly Hwaeom (華嚴) and Yogacara (唯識) background began to travel to China to study the Hongzhou school of Mazu Daoyi (709–788) and his successors[8] and the Rinzai school of Linji Yixuan. Mazu's successors had numerous Korean students, some of whom returned to Korea and established their own schools at various mountain monasteries with their leading disciples.[8]

Initially, the number of these schools was fixed at nine. Seon was termed the nine mountain schools" at the time.[7] Eight of these were of the lineage of Mazu Daoyi (馬祖道一) (709-788), as they were established through connection with either him or one of his eminent disciples.[8] The one exception was the Sumi-san school founded by Yieom (利嚴) (869-936), which had developed from the Caodong school (曹洞).

Toǔi (道義 Doui) (died 825), who studied with Zhizang (735-814) and Baizhang Huaihai (百丈) (749-814) is regarded as the first patriarch of Korean Sŏn. He founded the Kaji Mountain school (迦智山 Gaji san school). The Nine mountain Schools adopted the name Jogye Order in 826. The first record of the Nine Mountains school dates from 1084.[8]

Goryeo Dynasty (918–1392)

Korean bhikṣu of the Seon school


By the eleventh century Sŏn Buddhism became established in Korea. It distinguished itself from the existing Five Schools[note 1] and their scriptural emphasis.[8] Tension developed between the new meditational schools and the previously existing scholastic schools, which were described by the term gyo, meaning "learning" or "study". Efforts were needed to attain mutual understanding and rapprochement between Sŏn and these scholastic schools.[8]


The most important figure of Goryeo-era Seon was Jinul (Korean지눌; Hanja知訥, 1158-1210), who established a reform movement in Korea. In his time, the sangha was in a crisis of external appearance and internal issues of doctrine. Buddhism was seen as infected by secular tendencies and involvements, such as fortune-telling and the offering of prayers and rituals for success in secular endeavors. This perceived corruption was seen to create a profusion of monks and nuns with questionable motives. Therefore, the correction, revival, and improvement of the quality of Buddhism were prominent issues for Buddhist leaders of the period.

Jinul sought to establish a new movement within Korean Seon, which he called the "samādhi and prajñā society". Its goal was to establish a new community of disciplined, pure-minded practitioners deep in the mountains. He eventually accomplished this mission with the founding of the Songgwangsa (松廣寺) at Jogyesan as a new center of pure practice.

Jinul's works are characterized by a thorough analysis and reformulation of the methodologies of Seon study and practice. He laid an equal emphasis on doctrinal teaching and Sŏn practice.[8] One major issue that had long fermented in Chan, and which received special focus from Jinul, was the relationship between "gradual" and "sudden" methods in practice and enlightenment. Drawing upon various Chinese treatments of this topic, most importantly those by Guifeng Zongmi (780-841) and Dahui Zonggao (大慧宗杲) (1089–1163), Jinul created Pojo Sŏn,[8] a "sudden enlightenment followed by gradual practice" dictum, which he outlined in a few relatively concise and accessible texts.[9] Jinul incorporated Dahui Zonggao's gwanhwa (Chinese: 觀話; pinyin: guān huà, "observing the critical phrase") into his practice.[10] This form of meditation is the main method taught in Korean Seon today.[11]

Jinul's philosophical resolution of the Seon-Gyo conflict brought a deep and lasting effect on Korean Buddhism.


Jinul’s successor, Chin’gak Hyesim (혜심/慧諶: 1178~1234) further emphasized the hwadu (Ch. huatou, "word head" or "critical phrase") practice. He collected 1,125 gongans in his Sŏnmun yŏmsongjip ("The Collection of Verses and Cases", 1226). Hyesim encouraged female practitioners to practice hwadu, where-as women’s Buddhist practice was limited to chanting and sūtra-readings.[8]

Jogye Order

It was during the time of Jinul that the Jogye Order, a Seon sect, became the predominant form of Korean Buddhism, a status it still holds. Taego Bou (1301–1382) studied the Linji school in China and returned to unite the Nine Mountain Schools.

There would be a series of important Seon teachers during the next several centuries, such as Hyegeun (Korean혜근; Hanja慧勤, 1320-76), Taego Bou (1301–82), Gihwa (1376–1433) and Hyujeong (1520-1604), who continued to develop the basic mold of Korean meditational Buddhism established by Jinul.

Joseon (1392-1897)


At the end of Goryeo and during Joseon the Jogye Order was combined with the scholarly schools. It lost influence under the ruling class, which embraced neo-Confucianism.[web 2] Buddhism was gradually suppressed for the next 500 years. The number of temples was reduced, restrictions on membership in the sangha were installed, and Buddhist monks and nuns were literally chased into the mountains, forbidden to mix with society. Joseon Buddhism was first condensed to Seon and Gyo. Eventually, these were further reduced to the single school of Seon.

Giwha wrote an important treatise in defense of Buddhism, the Hyeonjeong non. In the tradition of earlier philosophers, he applied Essence-Function and Hwaeom (sa-sa mu-ae, "mutual interpenetration of phenomena").[web 2]

During Joseon, the number of Buddhist monasteries dropped from several hundred to a mere thirty-six. Limits were placed on the number of clergy, land area, and ages for entering the sangha. When the final restrictions were in place, monks and nuns were prohibited from entering the cities. Buddhist funerals, and even begging, were outlawed. A few rulers temporarily lifted the more suppressive regulations. The most noteworthy of these was the Queen Munjeong. The queen had deep respect for the brilliant monk Bou (보우, 普雨; 1515–1565), and installed him as the head of the Seon school.


Buddhist monks helped in repelling the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–98). Monks were organized into guerrilla units, which enjoyed some instrumental successes. The "righteous monk" (義士; uisa) movement was led by Hyujeong (1520–1604), a Seon master and the author of a number of important religious texts. The presence of the monks' army was a critical factor in the eventual expulsion of the Japanese invaders.

Seosan made efforts toward the unification of Buddhist doctrinal study and practice. He was strongly influenced by Wonhyo, Jinul, and Giwha. He is considered the central figure in the revival of Joseon Buddhism, and most major streams of modern Korean Seon trace their lineages back to him through one of his four main disciples: Yujeong (1544–1610); Eongi (1581–1644), Taeneung (1562–1649) and Ilseon (1533–1608), all four of whom were lieutenants to Seosan during the war with Japan.

Guard statue in a Korean temple
Statue of one of the Four Heavenly Kings

Late Joseon Kingdom

Buddhism during the three centuries, from the time of Seosan down to the next Japanese incursion into Korea in the late nineteenth century, did not change very much. The Buddhism of the late Joseon Kingdom saw a revival of Hwaeom studies. There was also a revival of Pure Land Buddhism.

Korean Empire (1897-1910) and Japanese annexation (1910-1945)

With the Korean Empire started the Gwangmu Reform, a modernisation of Korea. The Korean Empire ended in 1910, when Korea was annexated by Japan.

Korean monks travelled to Japan for the scholarly study of Buddhism, where they were influenced by Japanese scholars who introduced western ideas into their studies. Via those Korean monks western ideas were also introduced in Korean Buddhism, and a bifurcation developed between monks and scholars.[web 3]

Division of Korea (1945-present)

After the Second World War the United Nations developed plans for a trusteeship administration, the Soviet Union administering the peninsula north of the 38th parallel and the United States Army Military Government in Korea administering the south. The politics of the Cold War resulted in the 1948 establishment of two separate governments, North Korea and South Korea.

Contemporary Seon

Since the middle of the 20th century Christianity has competed with Buddhism in South Korea,[web 3] while religious practice has been suppressed in North Korea.[web 4]

Seon continues to be practiced in Korea today at a number of major monastic centers, as well as being taught at Dongguk University, which has a major of studies in this religion. The largest Buddhist denomination is the Jogye Order.

In the 1980s a debate arose about "sudden" versus "gradual" enlightenment".[web 3] Since Jinul Korean Seon was based on the integration of practice and scholarly study in the slogan "sudden enlightenment, gradual cultivation". The modern Korean Seon master Seongcheol revived the slogan "sudden enlightenment, sudden cultivation", ascribed to Huineng.[web 5] The last three Supreme Patriarchs of the Jogye Order have a stance in this debate that is in accordance with Seongcheol.

Spread in the United States

Korean Seon has been spread in the US by Seungsahn. He was a temple abbot in Seoul and after living in Hong Kong and Japan, he moved to the US in 1972, not speaking any English. On the flight to Los Angeles, a Korean American passenger offered him a job at a laundry in Providence, Rhode Island, which became headquarters of Seung Sahn's Kwan Um School of Zen. Shortly after arriving in Providence, he attracted students and founded the Providence Zen Center. The Kwan Um School has more than 100 Zen centers on six continents.

Another Korean Zen teacher, Samu Sunim, founded Toronto's Zen Buddhist Temple in 1971. He is head of the Buddhist Society for Compassionate Wisdom, which has temples in Ann Arbor, Chicago, Mexico City, and New York City.

In the early 20th century, Master Kyongho (1849–1912), re-energized Korean Seon. At the end of World War II, his disciple, Master Mann Gong (1871–1946), proclaimed that lineage Dharma should be transmitted worldwide to encourage peace through enlightenment. Consequently, his Dharma successor, Hye Am [web 6] (1884–1985) brought lineage Dharma to the United States. Hye Am's Dharma successor, Myo Vong[12] founded the Western Son Academy (1976), and his Korean disciple, Pohwa Sunim, founded World Zen Fellowship (1994) which includes various Zen centers in the United States, such as the Potomac Zen Sangha, the Patriarchal Zen Society and the Baltimore Zen Center.[web 7]


  1. ^ Kyeyul chong (Vinaya school), Yŏlban chong (Nirvāna school), Pŏpsŏng chong (Dharma Nature school), Hwaŏm chong (Huayen school), and Pŏpsang chong (Yogācāra school).[8]


Book references

  1. ^ "실용 한-영 불교용어사전". dic.tvbuddha.org (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-09-06.
  2. ^ "Jinul > Korean Seon Masters | Welcome to Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism". www.koreanbuddhism.net. Retrieved 2017-09-06.
  3. ^ "Bou > Korean Seon Masters | Welcome to Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism". www.koreanbuddhism.net. Retrieved 2017-09-06.
  4. ^ "Hyujeong > Korean Seon Masters | Welcome to Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism". www.koreanbuddhism.net. Retrieved 2017-09-06.
  5. ^ "한국 전통 간화선풍 되살린 선지식 진면목 - 법보신문" (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-09-06.
  6. ^ ""송담 스님 잘못 보필한 허물 참회합니다" - 법보신문" (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-09-06.
  7. ^ a b c Marshall 1995, p. 63.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Keown & Prebish 2007.
  9. ^ Buswell 1991a.
  10. ^ Buswell 1991b.
  11. ^ Lachs 2012.
  12. ^ Vong 2008.


  1. ^ Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Buddhist philosophy, Korean"
  2. ^ a b Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "11 Chosôn period (1392–1910)" Archived 2013-06-10 at WebCite
  3. ^ a b c Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Conclusion" Archived 2013-06-10 at WebCite
  4. ^ CIA, North Korea
  5. ^ Buddhism.org Buddhist eLibrary, "Toeong Seongcheol"
  6. ^ "Hye-Am". Retrieved 2010-10-10.
  7. ^ "World Zen Fellowship". Retrieved 2010-10-10.


  • Buswell, Robert E. (1991a), Tracing Back the Radiance: Chinul's Korean Way of Zen, University of Hawaii Press, ISBN 0824814274
  • Buswell, Robert E. (1991b), The "Short-cut" Approach of K'an-hua Meditation: The Evolution of a Practical Subitism in Chinese Ch'an Buddhism. In: Peter N. Gregory (editor)(1991), Sudden and Gradual. Approaches to Enlightenment in Chinese Thought, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited
  • Buswell, Robert E. (1993), The Zen Monastic Experience: Buddhist Practice in Contemporary Korea, Princeton University Press
  • Buswell, Robert E (1993), Ch'an Hermeneutics: A Korean View. In: Donald S. Lopez, Jr. (ed.)(1993), Buddhist Hermeneutics, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass
  • Keown, Damien; Prebish, Charles S. (2007), Encyclopedia of Buddhism: Sŏn Buddhism (Korean Zen), Routledge
  • Kim, Jinwung (2012), A History of Korea: From "Land of the Morning Calm" to States in Conflict, Indiana University Press
  • Lachs, Stuart (2012), Hua-t’ou : A Method of Zen Meditation (PDF)
  • Marshall, R. Pihl (1995), Koryŏ Sŏn Buddhism and Korean Literature. In: Korean Studies, Volume 19, 1995, pp. 62-82 (PDF)
  • Park, Jin Y. (2010), Makers of Modern Korean Buddhism, SUNY Press
  • Sorensen, Henrik Hjort (1983), The Life and Thought of the Korean Sŏn Master Kyŏnghŏ. In: Korean Studies, Volume 7, 1983, pp. 9-33

Further reading

External links


Gihwa (Korean: 기화; Hanja: 己和, 1376–1433), also known as Hamheo Teuktong was a Buddhist monk of Korean Seon and leading Buddhist figure during the late Goryeo to early Joseon eras. He was originally a Confucian scholar of high reputation, but converted to Buddhism at the age of 21 upon the death of a close friend. He wandered among the Korean mountain monasteries, until he had the fortune of becoming the disciple of the last Korean national teacher, Muhak.

Gihwa's writings showed a distinctive mixture between iconoclastic and subitist Seon language, and a strong appreciation for the scriptural tradition. Thus, he took up from Jinul the tradition of unification of Seon and Gyo Buddhism. Among his writings, there are four works in particular that made a deep impact on the subsequent Seon tradition in Korea. These are:

A commentary on the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment, the Weongak gyeong hae seorui.

A redaction and subcommentary to five famous earlier commentaries on the Diamond Sutra, the Geumgang banyabaramilgyeong ogahae seorui.

A subcommentary and redaction of the Collection of Yongjia, the Yonggajip gwaju seorui

The Hyeonjeong nonAs a result of his fourth major work, the Hyeonjeong non, Gihwa distinguished himself as the primary Buddhist respondent to the rising Neo-Confucian polemic of his period, as he responded with vigor to the Neo-Confucian criticisms of Buddhism.

Gihwa died while residing at Jeongsusa, at the southern tip of Ganghwado, where his tomb can still be visited. Gihwa's commentary on the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment was translated by A. Charles Muller, in 1999.

Essence-Function is a key concept in East Asian Buddhism and particularly that of Korean Buddhism. Essence-Function takes a particular form in the philosophy and writings of Kihwa.


Haeinsa (해인사, 海印寺: Temple of the Ocean Mudra) is a head temple of the Jogye Order (대한불교조계종, 大韓佛敎 曹溪宗) of Korean Seon Buddhism in Gayasan National Park (가야산, 伽倻山), South Gyeongsang Province, South Korea. Haeinsa is most notable for being the home of the Tripitaka Koreana, the whole of the Buddhist Scriptures carved onto 81,350 wooden printing blocks, which it has housed since 1398.Haeinsa is one of the Three Jewels Temples, and represents Dharma or the Buddha’s teachings. It is still an active Seon (선, 禪) practice center in modern times, and was the home temple of the influential Seon master Seongcheol (성철, 性徹), who died in 1993.

Hua Tou

Hua Tou (話頭, Korean: hwadu, Japanese: wato) is part of a form of Buddhist meditation known as Gongfu 工夫 (not to be confused with the Martial Arts 功夫 ) common in the teachings of Chan Buddhism, Korean Seon and Rinzai Zen. Hua Tou can be translated as 'word head', 'head of speech' or 'point beyond which speech exhausts itself'. A Hua Tou can be a short phrase that is used as a subject of meditation to focus the mind.


Jinul Puril Bojo Daesa (Korean: 보조지눌; Hanja: 普照知訥, 1158–1210), often called Jinul or Chinul for short, was a Korean monk of the Goryeo period, who is considered to be the most influential figure in the formation of Korean Seon (Zen) Buddhism. He is credited as the founder of the Jogye Order, by working to unify the disparate sects in Korean Buddhism into a cohesive organization.

Jogye Order

The Jogye Order, officially the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism (대한불교조계종, 大韓佛敎 曹溪宗) is the representative order of traditional Korean Buddhism with roots that date back 1200 years to the Later Silla National Master Doui, who brought Seon (known as Zen in the West) and the practice taught by the Sixth Patriarch, Huineng, from China about 820 CE. The name of the Order, Jogye, was adopted from the name of the village where Patriarch Huineng's home temple, Nanhua Temple, is located, (Chinese: 曹溪; pinyin: cáo xī; Korean: 조계종; romaja: Jogeongjung).The Jogye as a distinct school arose in the late 11th century when Jinul sought to combine the direct practices of Korean Seon with the theological underpinnings of sutra-based Buddhist schools as well as with Pure Land Buddhism.In 1994, the Jogye order managed 1725 temples, 10,056 clerics and had 9,125,991 adherents.The international Kwan Um School of Zen is a Jogye school founded by Seon Master Seungsahn, 78th Patriarch, who received Dharma transmission from Seon Master Gobong.

Korean Buddhism

Korean Buddhism is distinguished from other forms of Buddhism by its attempt to resolve what it sees as inconsistencies in Mahayana Buddhism. Early Korean monks believed that the traditions they received from foreign countries were internally inconsistent. To address this, they developed a new holistic approach to Buddhism. This approach is characteristic of virtually all major Korean thinkers, and has resulted in a distinct variation of Buddhism, which is called Tongbulgyo ("interpenetrated Buddhism"), a form that sought to harmonize all disputes (a principle called hwajaeng 和諍) by Korean scholars. Korean Buddhist thinkers refined their predecessors' ideas into a distinct form.

As it now stands, Korean Buddhism consists mostly of the Seon Lineage, primarily represented by the Jogye and Taego Orders. The Korean Seon has a strong relationship with other Mahayana traditions that bear the imprint of Chan teachings as well as the closely related Zen. Other sects, such as the modern revival of the Cheontae lineage, the Jingak Order (a modern esoteric sect), and the newly formed Won, have also attracted sizable followings.Korean Buddhism has contributed much to East Asian Buddhism, especially to early Chinese, Japanese, and Tibetan schools of Buddhist thought.


A kōan (公案) (; Chinese: 公案; pinyin: gōng'àn, [kʊ́ŋ ân]; Korean: 공안 gong-an; Vietnamese: công án) is a story, dialogue, question, or statement which is used in Zen practice to provoke the "great doubt" and to practice or test a student's progress in Zen.

Linji school

The Línjì school (Chinese: 臨濟宗) is a school of Chan Buddhism named after Linji Yixuan (d. 866). It took prominence in Song China (960–1279), spread to Japan as the Rinzai school and influenced the nine mountain schools of Korean Seon.

Rochester Zen Center

The Rochester Zen Center (RZC) is a Sōtō and Rinzai Zen Buddhist sangha in the Kapleau lineage, located in Rochester, New York and established in 1966 by Philip Kapleau. It is one of the oldest Zen centers in the United States.


The term subitism points to sudden enlightenment, the idea that insight is attained all at once. The opposite approach, that enlightenment can be achieved only step by step, through an arduous practice, is called gradualism.

Taego Bou

Taego Bou (Korean: 태고보우; Hanja: 太古普愚, 1301–1382), alternatively romanized as Taego Bowoo or Taego Bowu, was a Korean Seon master who lived in Goryeo, was the cofounder of the Jogye Order with Jinul, and is credited as the founder of the modern Taego Order.

According to tradition, he unified five different branches of Buddhism and nine different Seon lineages into a single order which still continues. For his efforts, he was appointed as a supreme patriarch for the dynasty. This helped set the standard for Korean Buddhism by bringing both doctrinal and practice-oriented sects together under a single umbrella.

Taego Order

The Taego Order or Taego-jong is the second largest order in Korean Seon, the Korean branch of Chan Buddhism.


The Vassa (Pali: vassa-, Sanskrit: varṣa-, both "rain") is the three-month annual retreat observed by Theravada practitioners. Taking place during the wet season, Vassa lasts for three lunar months, usually from July (the Burmese month of Waso, ဝါဆို) to October (the Burmese month of Thadingyut သီတင်းကျွတ်).In English, Vassa is often glossed as Rains Retreat or Buddhist Lent, the latter by analogy to the Christian Lent (which Vassa predates by at least five centuries).

For the duration of Vassa, monastics remain in one place, typically a monastery or temple grounds. In some monasteries, monks dedicate the Vassa to intensive meditation. Some Buddhist lay people choose to observe Vassa by adopting more ascetic practices, such as giving up meat, alcohol, or smoking. While Vassa is sometimes casually called "Buddhist Lent", others object to this terminology. Commonly, the number of years a monk has spent in monastic life is expressed by counting the number of vassas (or rains) since ordination.

Most Mahayana Buddhists do not observe Vassa, though Vietnamese Thiền and Korean Seon monastics observe an equivalent retreat of three months of intensive practice in one location, a practice also observed in Tibetan Buddhism.

Vassa begins on the first day of the waning moon of the eighth lunar month, which is the day after Asalha Puja or Asalha Uposatha ("Dhamma day"). It ends on Pavarana, when all monastics come before the sangha and atone for any offense that might have been committed during Vassa.

Vassa is followed by Kathina, a festival in which the laity expresses gratitude to monks. Lay Buddhists bring donations to temples, especially new robes for the monks.The Vassa tradition predates the time of Gautama Buddha. It was a long-standing custom for mendicant ascetics in India not to travel during the rainy season as they may unintentionally harm crops, insects or even themselves during their travels. Many Buddhist ascetics live in regions which lack a rainy season. Consequently, there are places where Vassa may not be typically observed.

Vietnamese Thiền

Thiền Buddhism (Vietnamese: Thiền Tông, 禪宗, IPA: [tʰîən təwŋm]) is the Vietnamese name for Chan Buddhism. Thiền is the Sino-Vietnamese pronunciation of Chan (Chinese: 禪), an abbreviation of the Sanskrit loanword dhyāna "meditation".

Walking meditation

Walking meditation, also known as kinhin (Chinese: 経行; pinyin: jīngxíng; Japanese pronunciation: kinhin, kyōgyō; Korean: gyeonghyaeng; Vietnamese: kinh hành) is the walking meditation that is practiced between long periods of the sitting meditation known as zazen. The practice is common in Zen, Chan Buddhism, Korean Seon and Vietnamese Thiền.

White Plum Asanga

White Plum Asanga, sometimes termed White Plum Sangha, is a Zen school in the Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi lineage, created by Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi. It consists of Maezumi's Dharma heirs and subsequent successors and students. A diverse organization spread across the United States and with a small presence in Europe, the White Plum Asanga

[I]ncludes teachers who represent the spectrum of styles to be found to American Zen—socially engaged Buddhism, family practice, Zen and the arts, secularized Zen, and progressive traditionalism."

Conceived of informally in 1979 by Maezumi and Tetsugen Bernard Glassman, the White Plum Asanga was named after Maezumi's father Baian Hakujun Dai-osho and then later incorporated in 1995 following Maezumi's death. Tetsugen Bernard Glassman was the White Plum Asanga's first President and his successor was Dennis Genpo Merzel. Following Merzel's term, in May 2007, Gerry Shishin Wick served as elected President of White Plum, until 2013 when Anne Seisen Saunders became the current president.


Zen (Chinese: 禪; pinyin: Chán; Korean: 선, romanized: Seon) is a school of Mahayana Buddhism that originated in China during the Tang dynasty, then known as the Chan School (Chánzong 禅宗) and later developed into various schools. It was strongly influenced by Taoist philosophy, especially Neo-Daoist thought, and developed as a distinct school of Chinese Buddhism. From China, Chán spread south to Vietnam and became Vietnamese Thiền, northeast to Korea to become Seon Buddhism, and east to Japan, becoming Japanese Zen.The term Zen is derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the Middle Chinese word 禪 (Chán), which traces its roots to the Indian practice of dhyāna ("meditation"). Zen emphasizes rigorous self-control, meditation-practice, insight into the nature of things (Ch. jianxing, Jp. kensho, "perceiving the true nature"), and the personal expression of this insight in daily life, especially for the benefit of others. As such, it de-emphasizes mere knowledge of sutras and doctrine and favors direct understanding through spiritual practice and interaction with an accomplished teacher.The teachings of Zen include various sources of Mahayana thought, especially Yogachara, the Tathāgatagarbha sūtras and the Huayan school, with their emphasis on Buddha-nature, totality, and the Bodhisattva-ideal. The Prajñāpāramitā literature as well as Madhyamaka thought have also been influential in the shaping of the apophatic and sometimes iconoclastic nature of Zen rhetoric.

Zen in the United States

Zen was introduced in the United States at the end of the 19th century by Japanese teachers who went to America to serve groups of Japanese immigrants and become acquainted with the American culture. After World War II, interest from non-Asian Americans grew rapidly. This resulted in the commencement of an indigenous American Zen tradition which also influences the larger western (Zen) world.

Zen master

Zen master is a somewhat vague English term that arose in the first half of the 20th century, sometimes used to refer to an individual who teaches Zen Buddhist meditation and practices, usually implying longtime study and subsequent authorization to teach and transmit the tradition themselves.

Main articles
Chinese Chán
Korean Seon
Vietnamese Thiền
European Zen
Doctrinal Background
Influential Sutras
Hierarchy and titles
Zen literature
Cultural influence
Related schools
Academic research


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