The Buddhist Meditation and The Distinctive Features of Zen Tradition


Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in the world, with over 500 million followers. The origin of Buddhism religion dates back to more than 2000 years ago in South Asia. Its origin points to one man, Siddhartha Gautama, a prince, historically known as the Buddha. Having seen the abject poverty, misery, and illness, which were completely different from his luxurious royal life, he became discontent and began a quest to find enlightenment about life. He sought this enlightenment through concentration and intense meditation and when he was finally enlightened, he set out to teach others his philosophies. Upon his death, his followers carried on his teachings and with time the Buddhist religion was birthed. The key features of Buddhism include disregard of a supreme god or Deity, choosing to instead focus on liberation, awakening, and enlightenment, through meditation. Buddhist meditation entails Samatha ( calm abiding/concentration ) and prajna/ vipassana (insight). Over the years, Buddhism has spread from Asia to the rest of the world. Its traditions and philosophies became redefined in each region that it spread to giving rise to several schools of Buddhism, one of the most common being Zen Buddhism.

Zen traces its roots to China, where it is referred to as Chan. The essential element of Zen Buddhism is meditation. It is distinct from other Buddhism schools because it teaches that everyone is already an enlightened being. However, people’s minds are so delusional that they fail to realize that they are already enlightened so they seek the advice of the enlightened ones before they realize their own enlightenment (Jun & Wapner, 2013). Zen meditation also does not dwell upon the mind or purity. The mind is deceptive and only gives an illusion, and peoples are naturally pure so they only need to get rid of all deceptive ideas and they will be back to their intrinsic purity. Like in Buddhism, insight, and concentration are important in Zen Buddhism. However, in Zen Buddhism the two elements are not independent of each other, they are united and so one has to find the equilibrium between both while meditating. Zen Buddhism is also associated with ink monochrome painting art. Artists paint themes such as orchids, birds, enlightened individuals to express their religious views and personal beliefs.

Buddhism are found all over the world today. They also acknowledge other religions such that there are Catholic Buddhists, Jewish Buddhists and many more. Their philosophies, emphasis on simplicity, morality and their approachability continues to attract followers who continue getting enlightened.





Jun, G., & Wapner, K. (2013). Essential Chan Buddhism. Rhinebeck: Monkfish Book Publishing.