Personality Psychology and Zen Buddhism


Zen Buddhism has been a topic of interest to westerners for a very long time. Zen Buddhism is a movement that occurred in the 1960s and involves monks, their feats and their monasticism, and the study of doctrines. However, Zen Buddhism is also a social and religious aspect that pertains to the everyday beliefs and customs of the followers in addition to the rituals and traditions followed by believers of the religion.

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Buddhism basically originated from India and later spread to China, where the early form of Zen initiated and developed and was more commonly known as Chan. Zazen is the Japanese name for the mediation posture in which Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment beneath the Bodhi tree and Bodh Gaya. Zen Buddhism adheres to the Eightfold Path and the four noble Truths which were taught by Lord Buddha.

The primary practice of Zen Buddhism involves “sitting in zazen” which is a type of meditation, in which the meditator is seated with a straight posture with the hands placed on the lap so that the palms face upwards and the thumbs touch each other lightly. In this way, the practice of meditation is assumed and the meditator understands the nature of the self and begins to learn how to avoid attachments, which is believed to be the root cause of all suffering in Buddhism.

The tradition of Zen Buddhism focuses on direct communication between the teacher and the student so that the teacher plays a central role in guiding the students to meditate and perform rituals appropriately. The meditation practice of Zen Buddhism involves the use of ‘Koans’ which are questions and stories for the students of Zen Buddhism and cannot be comprehended by them easily. The prime purpose of the Koans is to exhaust the logical activity of the human mind to break the conventional perception of reality. Through the Koan mediation and interview techniques, the Zen masters stimulate the students to come closer to truth regarding the dependant origination of the self. Zen masters assign a Koan to the student following which the student is seated with the Koan in the Zazen or mediation to comprehend the Koan.

During each interview, students are expected to present their understanding of the Koan to their master. However, this presentation is not through verbal communication, rather it occurs through some kind of physical movement. It depends on the teacher to gauge whether the student is successful in the Koan interview and has the authority to reject the presentation of the student. The successful solving of the Koan implies that the student has achieved an awakening and a level of consciousness.

Zen Buddhism does not emphasize the use and reliance on religious texts and verbal discourses and believes that these things only lead to outward answers rather than the inward quest of the self. The practice of meditation for internal awakening is believed to be the quintessence of the religion and adheres to the basic doctrine of Buddhism that the true nature of an individual is within the individual and this can be attained through mindfulness and mediation which ultimately lead to the enlightenment of an individual.

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