Glossary of Zen Terms
The word ch’an is a transliteration of the Sanskrit word Dhyana, meaning concentration (i.e. meditation). While some schools of Buddhism emphasize elaborate cosmologies, devotional practices, chanted formulas and arcane images and gestures, Zen offers meditation (zazen) as the best way to discover things directly for oneself.
Another distinctive characteristic of Zen is that the historical Buddha is regarded less reverentially than in most other Buddhist traditions. While Zen practitioners may exhibit a high degree of respect and admiration for the Buddha (especially for his solitary quest for enlightenment without the guidance of anyone before him and for his burning desire to cure the world’s suffering), Zen Buddhists consider the Buddha a human being. Thus a bit of irreverence for the Buddha now and then is considered healthy. One Zen master, when he heard a student speak reverently of the Buddha, washed out the student’s mouth with soap! (It should be noted , however, that Zen is certainly not the only tradition that considers the Buddha to be just an admirable person and not a godlike figure.)