Zen & Buddhism Q&As

What kinds of Zen are found in the West?

Of the five schools of Zen, only two have any significant presence in the West; Soto and Rinzai.

In Rinzai there is more emphasis on acheiving enlightenment. Koans are sometimes used as part of meditation practice,and the relationship between teacher and student is more intense, often comprising one to one interviews (dokusan) where the student may well be questioned on his understanding of the koan he has been given. Pure Rinzai isn’t so common in the West, but if you wanted to find it, a good place to start would probably be Mount Baldy Zen Centre in California, who could point you in the right direction. Master Maezumi had lineages in both Soto and Rinzai,and his successors teach both. You can find them at the White Plum Sangha. D.T.Suzuki was in the Rinzai tradition.

Soto is the more widespread school, both in Japan and in the West, and it is the tradition that we practice within.In Soto, rather than a conscious striving for something,the emphasis is on shikantaza, which is often translated as ‘just sitting’. Shunryu Suzuki’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind is an excellent introduction to Soto.