Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism (the larger of the two major traditions of Buddhism existing today, the other being Theravāda). The Japanese word zen is derived from the Chinese word chán, which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which means ‘meditation’ or ‘meditative state.’ Zen aims at enlightenment by direct intuition through meditation.

The emergence of Zen as a distinct school of Buddhism was first documented in China in the 7th century CE. From China, Zen spread south to Vietnam, and east to Korea and Japan. As a matter of tradition, the establishment of Zen is credited to the South Indian prince-turned-monk Bodhidharma, who came to China to teach a ‘special transmission outside scriptures, not founded on words or letters.’

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