Japanese Zen Buddhist Philosophy

Japanese Zen philosophy teaches that followers can find truth through meditation.
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Japanese Zen Buddhism combines the philosophical teachings of Taoism with traditional Buddhism to form a new philosophical and religious system that emphasizes looking inside oneself to find the truth about the external world. Japanese Zen philosophy teaches individuals to understand the illusory nature of reality, and gradually become a better person.

1 Reality

One of the most important philosophical teachings of Japanese Zen Buddhism relates to the religion's conception of reality. Zen Buddhists teach that the sensory world is an illusion and distinctions between one object and another are false. Our logical minds and sensory experience distract us from that truth and prevent us from seeing the true nature of reality. Through meditation, Zen Buddhists attempt to see the world for what it really is and understand the inherent connection between all things.

2 Non-Dualism

It's incorrect to think that the idea that the material world contradicts the true nature of reality is a dualistic notion. Japanese Zen Buddhism teaches there is only oneness that unites all objects, and even the material part of the world is part of this wholeness. Japanese Zen Buddhists seek to unify all differences and opposites within their own consciousness, and in order to understand this, they have to realize the false distinction between the external world and their own mind.

3 Time and Space

Another important aspect of Japanese Zen Buddhist philosophy relates to the notion of space and time, which, like everything in Zen Buddhism, is integrated into the totality of reality. This philosophy contends that all time and all space are present here and now. Time and space are not quantifiable notions, rather they form continuities that human beings can access only through experiences. Because of the limited nature of our consciousness, we can only experience one aspect of this continuity at a time.

4 Aesthetic Philosophy

Japanese Zen Buddhists developed an aesthetic based on the philosophical principles of the religion. This aesthetic affected all aspects of Japanese art and design. Japanese Zen Buddhists painted in quick, evocative styles, often taking Zen teachers or the natural world for subjects. This aesthetic emphasized the Zen notion of simplicity, and Japanese art, architecture and writing were often minimalist and free from heavy ornamentation. According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this tradition also focused on the fleeting and temporary nature of the real world, and artists considered aged and decaying objects preferable to new and pristine ones.

James Stuart began his professional writing career in 2010. He traveled through Asia, Europe, and North America, and has recently returned from Japan, where he worked as a freelance editor for several English language publications. He looks forward to using his travel experience in his writing. Stuart holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and philosophy from the University of Toronto.