Thursday, May 5, 2011

Zen versus Ch'an

I have known a number of Zen teachers/authors who claim that there is a difference between Chinese Ch’an and Japanese Zen, and say that the two are not the same. Is this because one person says “to-may-to” and the other “to-ma-to” or are Zen and Chan actually different?

5 comments:

  1. Roses are different than Lilies, but they both bloom, and no one can explain why. Things that come from the same source emerge and appear differently. Authors and teachers often make their living by selling distinctions. So, I suppose it depends on how we use language and words. Ch'an is different than Zen. They are spelled different. They sound different. They live in different countries, and contain different stories, cultures, practices, and atmospheres. But the thing we say can never be the thing itself, and the thing itself isn't from China or Japan. Awakening is awakening. One person hears a bird singing, another tastes tea...

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Authors and teachers often make their living by selling distinctions."

    I've never looked at it this way - but what a great way of summing up the Religion Industry.

    (Actually, at present that's precisely how I make my living - I'm a Religious Studies teacher!)

    ReplyDelete
  3. There is "green tea" and there is also sencha and matcha. Zen is sometimes used as a white label to designate ch'an, seon, thien and zen.

    Also I remember a post you've made, Miles, where you said that humor was a key point in ch'an and was lost in it's japanese interpretation. For me that's a big difference between both.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "...where you said that humor was a key point in ch'an and was lost in it's japanese interpretation."

    Don't know about Japan really, I'm inclined to think it's a mixed bag, but I'd say that a lot of humour was lost in our Western interpretation of Japanese Zen due to some assumptions on the Japanese character based on attitudes and perceptions arising from WWII.

    Regards,

    Harry.

    ReplyDelete
  5. What hangs in the balance?

    ReplyDelete