Zen is a branch of Mahayana Buddhism that originated in China, when Buddhists were introduced to Taoists.

Comparison chart

Buddhism versus Zen comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartBuddhismZen
Practices Practices of the Threefold Training: Virtue, Concentration, and Wisdom, a.k.a the Noble Eightfold Path. Regularly visit temple to meditate & to make offerings to the Buddha and donations to monks/nuns.
Place of worship Buddhist monasteries, temples, shrines. Pagoda, Temple.
Place of origin Indian Subcontinent China
Goal of religion To attain enlightenment and be released from the cycle of rebirth and death, thus attaining Nirvana. To gain enlightenment
Founder Gautama Buddha (born as Prince Siddhartha) Founded by those who broke away from the original teachings of the Buddha or those who make unnecessary adjustments to the teachings, during the Third Buddhist Council.
Clergy The Buddhist Sangha, composed of bhikkhus (male monks) and bhikkhunis (female monks). The sangha is supported by lay Buddhists. monks, nuns.
Means of Salvation Following the Noble Eightfold Path. seeks enlightenment
Use of statues and pictures Common As a symbolic reminder, which can be found in sculptures, arts, and architecture.
Literal Meaning Buddhists are those who follow the teachings of the Buddha in order to become like the Buddha. zen is the japanese translation of the chinese word "chan" which is the chinese word for "dhyana" which is the sanskrit word for the pali word "jhana" which means "meditation".
Life after death Rebirth is one of the central beliefs of Buddhism. We are in an endless cycle of birth, death and re-birth, which can only be broken by attaining nirvana. Attaining nirvana is the only way to escape suffering permanently. Multiple births, ultimate Nirvana
Belief of God The idea of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent creator is rejected by Buddhists. The Buddha himself refuted the theistic argument that the universe was created by a self-conscious, personal God. believes in "buddhas" that can live forever and influence man kind in ways similar to the abilities attributed to "god(s)". this information comes from the late mahayana sutras and is opposite the oldest, original teachings (pali canon).
View of the Buddha The highest teacher and the founder of Buddhism, the all-transcending sage. Central figure of Zen. believed to exist in another realm and to be able to help humans. Although not heavily relied on in Zen, mostly the practitioner relies on himself or herself.
Human Nature Ignorance, as all sentient beings. In the Buddhist texts, it is seen that when Gautama, after his awakening, was asked whether he was a normal human being, he replied, "No". Man's desire for material things leads to suffering.
Status of women No distinctions between men and women. Women are equal to men, and men are equal to women in the Sangha. Women can become nuns.
Concept of Deity Gods are seen as higher life forms, still bound in samsara. believes in "Buddhas" which are immortal and exist in infinite numbers and have nearly every attribute usually given to deities of all religions. opposite what is taught in the oldest teachings (pali canon) validated by later mahayana texts.
Marriage It is not a religious duty to marry. Monks and nuns do not marry and are celibate. Advice in the Discourses on how to maintain a happy and harmonious marriage. not specified in the sutras, likely varies greatly depending on which school of zen and in which country.
Religious Law The Dharma. Dharma
Confessing sins Sin is not a Buddhist concept. Not discussed
Use of Statues Used as meditation objects, and revered as they reflect the qualities of the Buddha. Common
Religion which atheists may still be adherents of Yes. Yes.

Further Reading

For further reading, there are several books available on Amazon.com on Buddhism and principles of Zen:

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