The Zen Tradition

Although the lineage chart claims that Zen started with Buddha and had 27 ancestors in India before Bodhidharma brought it to China, the historical evidence is that Zen, more properly known as Chan, arose in China, went to Korea, where it was called Soen, and from there to Japan, where it was called Zen. From China it also went south to Vietnam, where it was called Thien. The Japanese were the first to reach out to westerners, which is why we call it Zen. For students in the Kwan Um School of Zen, obviously the first texts to be familiar with are Zen Master Seung Sahn’s books. During his lifetime he wrote and/or authorized The Compass of Zen(his overview of Buddhism) Dropping Ashes on the Buddha (a compilation from his early encounters with American students), The Whole World is a Single Flower(a source for many of our kong-ans), Ten Gates (his discussion of key kong-ans)and Only Don’t Know (a compilation of his teaching letters).Wanting Enlightenment is a Big Mistake is a posthumous collection done without his supervision.

The Zen tradition is carried largely by the stories of our ancestors (kong-ans). Two anthologies collect much of the essential Zen texts. There is surprisingly little overlap between them, and it’s useful to have both:

Zen Sourcebook is a compilation of texts from China, Korea, and Japan, and includes a number of texts of women. 

The Roaring Stream: A New Zen Reader is a collection of texts from China and Japan. 

The major traditions relating to our school are:

Chinese Zen (Chan)

Zen (Soen) in Korea

Zen in Japan

In addition, contemporary scholarship has brought to deserved prominence the activities of Buddhist women as both teachers and practitioners.

 We also include information on Buddhism in America in the 20/21st centuries