Theravada vs. Zen


Theravada is the oldest form of Buddhism and means "Greater Vehicle." It was founded in India, whereas Zen originated in China, and is a subsect of Mahayana Buddhism.

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Practices Donation (alms-giving, etc.), Morality, and Meditation (insight). (Morality is nobler than donation and meditation is nobler than morality.) Regularly visit temple to meditate & to make offerings to the Buddha and donations to monks/nuns.
Place of worship There is no worship in Theravada, though there are monastic temples. Pagoda, Temple.
Place of origin Nepal China
Goal of religion Deliverance of mind. Becoming an Arahant and freeing one's self from bondage, namely samsara. To gain enlightenment
Founder Siddhāttha Gotama 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.
Literal Meaning Theravada means "teaching of the elders". It refers to the pure or original teachings of the Buddha over 2500 years ago. 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".
Belief There are no beliefs. However, there is a faculty of conviction that is required for a worldling in order to start their practice. Initially, it has to be embraced that the Buddha is fully enlightened, thus actual investigation might follow. follow Gautama Buddha and believe that he exists in a spiritual form and can answer prayers and help people. enlightenment is mostly up to the practitioner to attain. this is how it is in the mahayana texts which are opposite the original teachings
Human Nature Human life is very hard to obtain, hence it is very important to practice. An ordinary human is called a puthujjana, a worldling. This kind is motivated by their illusory ego in all aspects of life. Man's desire for material things leads to suffering.
View of the Buddha The Tathāgata is the worthy one. According to Theravada, Siddhāttha Gotama had the supreme enlightenment, which makes him superior to an Arahant. He's the one who propounded the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. 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.
Use of statues and pictures Statues of the Buddha are objects of meditation. As a symbolic reminder, which can be found in sculptures, arts, and architecture.
Means of salvation Attaining Nibbāna through the Noble Eightfold Path, thus becoming an Arahant, an awakened one. seeks enlightenment
Religious Law There are no religious laws in Theravada, rather teachings of wisdom, and the Dhamma for those who are seeking liberation. Dharma
Views on other religion Do not accept any other beliefs other than the teachings of the Buddha. no conflict with practicing other religions.
Status of women Women can join the Sangha. In the Dharmic approach, the Buddha was the very first to allow women into monastic life. Women can become nuns.
God's role in salvation Theravada rejects the concept of creator god. Beings are heirs of their own kamma. Zen does not specify any Supreme Being Who Is the Creator of the universe.
Concept of Deity There are classes of beings. Some are called devas, higher life forms than human beings, though nothing supernatural. They are all stuck in their own samsara. There is no absolute entity, as an existing entity is seen as a conditioned phenomenon. 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.
Confessing sins There is no concept of sin in Theravada. Kamma implies volitional action and all deeds have their fruits. Nevertheless, not being mentally attached to a certain misdeed was strongly adviced by the Buddha. Not discussed
Clergy Sangha; ones who live according to the monastic codes. The concept of monk, or nun did not exist in earlier Buddhism. Those who chose to live under the guidance of the Tathāgata (Siddhāttha Gotama) parted from the worldlings. monks, nuns.
Marriage One can marry and lead a moral life but should know that desire, attachments and cravings lead to suffering. not specified in the sutras, likely varies greatly depending on which school of zen and in which country.
Three Jewels The Buddha, The Dhamma and The Sangha (like the most valuable or irreplaceable jewels in the world) buddha, dharma, sangha
Use of statues Common Common
Original Languages Magada (not pali); the universal language during the lifetime of the Buddha which was understood all over the universe. Pali, Sanskrit, Mandarin
Holy days Kasone Full Moon Day, Waso Full Moon Day, etc. Wesak, Sangha Day, Chinese New Year, Bodhi Day.
Geographical predominance Thailand, Sri lanka, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar (where the Four Noble Truths are best prominent) (Only five countries left) Asia, North America.
View of Abrahamic religions There are no specific views of Abrahamic religions in the Dhamma of the Theravada. Though they reject theism for themselves. Dharmic; Not Abrahamic. Sees no contradiction in following more than one religion.
Virtue in which religion is based upon The Threefold Training: Morality, Concentration and Wisdom (insight) Compassion.
Place of worship / doing obeisance Buddhists do obeisance to the Three Jewels in their homes, in the pagodas or in the monasteries. Temple, Pagoda
Day of worship / obeisance One can do obeisance to the Three Jewels every day or as frequently as he or she can. May worship any day.

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Comments: Theravada vs Zen

Anonymous comments (5)

March 19, 2013, 1:06pm

- Theravada Buddhists visit monasteries and nunneries besides pagodas.
- We can practise meditation in our homes.
- Theravada Buddhism is predominant in Myanmar and Cambodia, too.
- Buddhism is mainly based on the threefold training or the Eightfold Path.
- Theravada Buddhists completely reject any kind of Hindu gods or deities.
- Buddhism has no relevance to Hinduism.
- Hinduism is much older than Buddhism.
- Unlike Mahayana Buddhists, Theravada Buddhists follow exactly how Buddha had taught us and they do not accept new or extra things (which Buddha never taught to us) and do not reject things which Buddha had taught to us.
- Although Buddhism is 2556 years old (since Buddha’s death), it is still scientific and absolutely true to all the creatures in the world.
- Our present world is a period of time distinguished by enlightenment of five successive Buddhas, and since four Buddhas had already attained nirvana, there is only one boddhisatva (future Buddha) named Metteyya, left to attain enlightenment in this present world. Theravada Buddhists accept this fact.

— 122.✗.✗.116

March 20, 2013, 5:46am

Although Buddha's teachings are 2556 years old (since his death), they are still scientific and suit all the conditions and creatures in the world today, and therefore need no requirements or adjustments at all. However, Buddhism (Buddha's teachings) has become divided into different schools and these teachings are being adjusted or amended by many of the schools, except for Theravada Buddhism, which contains the original teachings of Buddha. Theravada Buddhists follow exactly Buddha's teachings without making any adjustments. Mahayana Buddhists, however, make certain adjustments in or amendments to Buddha's teachings (adding new things to the teachings and removing some from the teachings) Mahayana monks, but not Theravada monks, also adjust the disciplinary conduct (227 disciplines) for Sangha laid down by Gautama Buddha .

— 122.✗.✗.116

March 18, 2013, 9:38am

I don't think Theravada Buddhists believe in any kind of Hindu gods. They accept only devas, who are said to be suffering in samsara, like humans and who have no relevance to human existence.

— 122.✗.✗.116

October 10, 2011, 9:08pm

The description is incorrect, Mahayana means "Great Vehicle", Theravada means "The Ancient Teaching".

— 69.✗.✗.234

December 23, 2011, 3:25pm

You are wrong in some points.
1. Status of women in Theravada.
Women can't be nuns because of destrustion of nuns' Sanga in ancient time.
2.Geographical distribution and predominance:
Therravada is spread in Southeast Asia while Zen is concentrated in Eastern Asia.
3.Literal Meaning:
The word "Zen" came from "Dhyāna" in Sanskrit, which means mesitation or spiritual concentration.
4.Religious Law:
Is Vinaya and Śīla not "Religious Law"?
5.Original Language:
Original Language of Zen text is Sanskrit and Classical Chinese.

— 114.✗.✗.169


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