Posted in Zen Buddhism

What is Zen?

On the phone tonight, my mom asked, “What does the word ‘Zen’ mean, anyway?” And I realized I didn’t know. It’s a school of Buddhism, but as for translating the literal word, I was at a loss.

So I took the question to my teachers at the Zen Center. Our head teacher said that the word originated in China, “Zen” was the Japanese, and there was no English equivalent. He offered the analogy of Zen being the connection between Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire when they dance. It’s the point when you can’t tell where one stops and the next begins. It’s the fluid, ever-changing energy in each moment of the dance.

I think my mom will like that.


Ven. Dr. Myodo Jabo (Sandy Gougis) is a Zen Master and Priest in the Five Mountain Zen Order. She began studying Theravâdin Buddhism in 1998, adding Zen in 2003, and Vajrayana Buddhism in 2008. She currently practices in both the Zen and Tibetan traditions. Her Zen teacher is Most Ven. Wonji Dharma of the Five Mountain Zen Order, and her Tibetan guru is Lama Tsultrim Allione of Tara Mandala. In her free time, Myodo enjoys painting, jewelry making, and other creative endeavors.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.