STUDY HISTORY 2021.07.29

The History of Zen: Discovering the Roots of Sōtō Zen (4)

From Prof. KAGAMISHIMA Genryū’s Zengaku gairon kōgi nōto
(Introduction to Zen Studies Lecture Notes)

Chapter Two: Zen in the Development of Buddhism

 As previously discussed, Buddhist meditation is based on ancient Indian practices, and was adopted into Buddhist practice by Śākyamuni Buddha. After being absorbed into Buddhism, it came to have a different meaning compared to the meditation of other Indian religions.
 The facts that Śākyamuni Buddha attained awakening through the practice of seated meditation, and that when he taught his disciples the truth that he had realized he first entered into meditation before teaching demonstrate how important meditation is in Buddhism. Therefore, seated meditation is the most important practice in Buddhism. The seated meditation of Buddhism evolved in its content and theory over the course of 2,500 years as it was brought from India to China, and on to Japan.
 In other words, the Buddhism of India developed from Original Buddhism原始仏教, to Sectarian Buddhism部派仏教, and then to Mahāyāna Buddhism大乗仏教. During this process, the content of the Buddhist cultivation practice of seated meditation also developed as Original Buddhist Meditation, Sectarian Buddhist Meditation, and Mahāyāna Buddhist Meditation.
 Original Buddhism is Buddhism centered on the time of Śākyamuni Buddha and his disciples. During this period, Śākyamuni Buddha was the living proof of the truths of Buddhism, and if his disciples had questions they could be taught directly by Śākyamuni Buddha. The disciples first of all kept the precepts戒律 established by Śākyamuni Buddha to settle their physical existence, then practiced meditation to settle their minds, and finally were able to attain the true wisdom智慧 that is the ideal of Buddhism. In this period it was possible to attain Nirvāṇa during one’s lifetime. For that reason, the cultivation of seated meditation was understood as a method leading to Nirvāṇa in the present lifetime.