What makes Zen Buddhism unique?

In my mind, it’s very simple: Buddhism + Taoism = Zen.

When Bodhidharma developed his stripped down form of Buddhism, he called it Dhyana, which is the Sanskrit word for meditation. He brought it to China where they called it Chan. It later spread to Japan, where they called it Zen.

It is in China where it intermingled with Taoism. The Chinese say that Buddhism is Chan’s father and Taoism is Chan’s mother.

It is here that Chan picks up koan practice (I do not know why the Soto sect of Zen downplays koan practice). Rightly or wrongly, anything I find quirky in Zen, I attribute to Taoism. I consider a sense of humor to be one of Taoism’s strengths.

As Taoism also emphasizes simplicity. I see Taoism in the simplicity of Zen.

©2016 Stephen L. Martin

Photo: Zen rock garden, Portland Japanese Gardens, Portland, OR

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