This four-line stanza attributed to Bodhidharma reveals to us the classic definition of Zen:
- A special transmission outside the scriptures,
- Not relying on words or letters
- Pointing directly to the Mind
- Realizing one’s True Nature and attaining Buddahood
From this verse, we glean that the objective of Zen is the realization of one’s True Nature through practice and experience rather than intellectual study. This practice is a breath-centered meditation that silences the body and the mind in order to realize one’s True Nature.
The word Zen is short from the Japanese zenna which comes from the Chinese ch’an or ch’anna and the Sanskrit dhyana, all of which means meditation or contemplation.