Class: How Zen Became Zen

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Class Description:

The word “Zen” is used in many ways, but Zen is fundamentally a form of Mahayana Buddhism. Over the next six weeks, we will discuss the origins and foundations of the central teachings and practices of Zen Buddhism as we practice it today.

Class Schedule: Six Tuesdays, March 21 – April 25, 7:00-8:00 pm

Class One: Tuesday, March 21 – The life of the Buddha

Where it all began. In this class, we will discuss the life of the Buddha as described in the Pali canon, as well as some of the colourful myths about his life. We will cover the religious and cultural landscape that produced Buddhism, as well as the novel and revolutionary teachings that set Buddhism apart from other religions.

Further reading: Buddha by Karen Armstrong, The Life of the Buddha: According to the Pali Canon by Bhikkhu Nanamoli

Class Two: Tuesday, March 28 – The origin of Mahayana in India

In this class, we will examine the murky origins of Mahayana Buddhism and the birth of the bodhisattva ideal, as well as foundational Mahayana texts such as the Lotus Sutra and the Prajnaparamita teachings.

Further reading: The Awakening of Faith by Asvaghosa, Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism by D.T. Suzuki

Class Three: Tuesday, April 4 – Chan and Chinese Buddhism

In China, the teachings brought by the legendary Bodhidharma took root and blossomed into the five schools of Zen. Chan introduced koan practice, and buddha-nature teachings to the Mahayana teachings.

Further reading: Hoofprint of the Ox by Sheng Yen, The Essence of Chan by Guo Gu

Class Four: Tuesday, April 11 – Zen in Japan

In this class, we will discuss the life of our founder in Japan, Eihei Dogen Zenji. We will discuss the founding of the Soto school, and its evolution through Japan’s turbulent history.

Further reading: Dogen: Japan’s Original Zen Teacher by Steven Heine, An Introduction to Zen Training by Omori Sogen

Class Five: Tuesday, April 18 – Women in Buddhism

This class will talk about our first woman teacher, Mahapajapati, and all women teachers, known and unknown, whose shining practice guides us to this day.

Further reading: The Hidden Lamp by Florence Caplow and Sue Moon, The First Buddhist Women by Susan Murcot

Class Six: Tuesday, April 25 – Zen in the West

This class will focus on our founders in the West, great teachers Shogaku Shunryu and Jikai Dainin, the Zen centers and teachings that they set up, and the continuing joys and challenges of Zen in the West.

Further reading: What Is Zen?: Plain Talk for a Beginner’s Mind by Norman Fischer and Sue Moon, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki