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.
Founder Gautama Buddha. 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.
Place of origin northern india/ nepal China
Status of women Women can become nuns (from the beginning it was allowed having been directly allowed by the Buddha himself but was not allowed for many centuries after his death until it was again allowed fairly recently) Women can become nuns.
Concept of Deity (Improved) Deity or deities have always been rejected. Also the concept of deity is not a part of Buddhism. Buddhists however accept Devas, who are suffering in the samsara like humans, have no relevance to the human existence, and cannot save us. 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.
Goal of religion To gain enlightenment or nirvana. To gain enlightenment
View of the Buddha Founder of Buddhism or the Four Noble Truths. Teacher to show the creatures the way to escape from samsara or to attain nirvana. Believed to no longer be alive but having left his teachings behind. 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 Ordinary human beings possess ignorance, desire (lust), anger, greed, and delusion (since they were born) which lead to the suffering. Man's desire for material things leads to suffering.
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".
Clergy monks and nuns (Sangha) who unitedly follow the teachings of the Buddha monks, nuns.
Belief Believe that the Buddha died 2557 years ago but had left his teachings behind for the creatures. 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
Means of salvation Salvation is irrelevant to Buddhism; the way to attainment of Nirvana is to follow the threefold training or the eightfold path, to practice abstract meditation. If one follow these paths, one will definitely reach Nirvana someday. seeks enlightenment
Original Languages Magada (not pali); the universal language during the lifetime of the Buddha which was understood all over the universe. Pali, Sanskrit, Mandarin
Use of statues and pictures As a symbolic reminder. As a symbolic reminder, which can be found in sculptures, arts, and architecture.
Confessing sins Not relevant to Buddhism. (The Buddha told us to strive hard ourselves to dismiss the bad deeds we have already done, except for some, and showed the way to do so.) Not discussed
Religious Law Dharma (the Teachings of the Buddha) Dharma
View of other Abrahamic religions Theravada is a Dharmic religion. It is not a theistic system and perceives theistic religions as mistaken. Zen is a Dharmic religion. Not an Abrahamic religion, and sees no contradiction in following more than one religion.
Views on other religion Do not accept any other beliefs other than the teachings of the Buddha. no conflict with practicing other religions.
About Theravadians follow exactly the oldest known or original teachings of the Buddha exclusively. They did not, do not or will not make any adjustments to the teachings as they are unnecessary. Zen follows myriad teachings that have accrued over millenia, many of which are attributed to the buddha in a retrograde fashion since he was dead when they were written. they also highly regard later zen teachers writings.
Holy days Kasone Full Moon Day, Waso Full Moon Day, etc. Wesak, Sangha Day, Chinese New Year, Bodhi Day.
God's role in salvation The Buddha told us to work out our own attainment of nirvana and to depend on no one. Besides, God or gods, creator(s), savior(s) or Deity or deities never exist or are never accepted by Theravada Buddhists. Salvation is not a part of Buddhism. Zen does not specify any Supreme Being Who Is the Creator of the universe.
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
Geographical predominance Thailand, Sri lanka, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar (where the Four Noble Truths are best prominent) (Only five countries left) Asia, North America.
Virtue in which religion is based upon The Threefold Training: Morality, Concentration and Wisdom (insight) Compassion.
View of Abrahamic religions Dharmic; Not Abrahamic. Never accept the beliefs of any other religions because fully rely on the teachings of the Buddha only. Dharmic; Not Abrahamic. Sees no contradiction in following more than one religion.
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.
Use of statues Common Common

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Comments: Theravada vs Zen

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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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