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This title can be defined as Zen contemplation in Japanese, or sit quietly in (Buddhist) meditation in Chinese. It also carries a similar meaning in Korean Hanja. Therefore, this is a rather universal term for meditation in the context of Buddhism throughout the Orient.
Can also be translated as "Meditatively equipoised" or "enter into meditation by stilling the karmic activities of deed, speech, and thought."
The original Sanskrit word is samapanna. In Tibetan: snyoms par zhugs pa.
First let's correct something: The Japanese romanization for this character, "Zen" has penetrated the English language. In English, it's almost always incorrectly used for phrases like "That's so zen." Nobody says "That's so meditation" - right? As the title of a sect, this would be like saying, "That's soooo Baptist!"
禪 by itself just means "meditation." In that context, it should not be confined to use by any one religion or sect.
Regardless of the dictionary definition, more often than not, this character is associated with Buddhism. And here is one of the main reasons:
Zen is used as the title of a branch of Mahayana Buddhism which strongly emphasizes the practice of meditation.
However, it should be noted that Buddhism came from India, and "Chan Buddhism" evolved and developed in medieval China. The Chinese character "Chan" was eventually pronounced as "Zen" in Japanese. Chan Buddhists in China have a lot in common with Zen Buddhists in Japan.
More about the history of Zen Buddhism here.
Please also note that the Japanese Kanji character for Zen has evolved a little in Japan, and the two boxes (kou) that you see at the top of the right side of the character have been replaced by three dots with tails. The original character would still be generally understood and recognized in Japanese (it's considered an ancient version in Japan) but if you want the specifically modern Japanese version, please click on the zen Kanji to the right. Technically, there is no difference in Tensho and Reisho versions of Zen since they are ancient character styles that existed long before Japan had a written language.
There is also an alternate/shorthand/simplified Chinese version which has two dots or tails above the right-side radical. This version is also popular for calligraphy in China. If you want this version, just click the character to the right.
Further notes: Zen is just one of seven sects of Buddhism practiced in Japan. The others are 律 Ritsu (or Risshū), 法相 Hossō, 論 Sanron 華嚴 Kegon, 天台 Tendai, and 眞言 Shingon.
理念 / 理唸 means idea, notion, concept, principle, theory, philosophy*, or doctrine in Chinese, Japanese Kanji, and old Korean Hanja.
理念 / 理唸 is OK for a wall scroll, although it's more commonly used as an oral/informal word in Asia.
* 理念 / 理唸 is not the title for philosophy but rather is about having a certain philosophy or approach to something.
意見 means idea, thought, opinion, or view in Japanese.
意見 also has a similar meaning in Chinese, just often used in China.
思想 means thought, thinking, or idea in Chinese, Japanese Kanji, and old Korean Hanja. Sometimes it can mean ideology, depending on context.
This can refer to someone's personality - like saying, "he is a thinker."
This describes the act of sitting in the state of deep meditation. You'll notice that the second character is Chan/Zen, which is often used to title the meditative form of Buddhism. In Korean Hanja, this means "religious meditation" (basically the same as the Chinese definition). This can also be defined as abstract meditation, fixed abstraction, or contemplation.
Buddhists may define this as, sitting in dhyāna, abstract meditation, fixed abstraction, or contemplation.
Japanese note: This will make sense in Japanese but the Kanji shown to the left are partially in ancient/traditional Japanese form. Japanese Buddhists may use 坐禪, 坐禅, 座禪, or 座禅. The most standard/modern Japanese form of this word is shown to the right. Click on the Kanji to the right (instead of the button above) if you want this specifically Japanese version.
反省 is the Chinese, Japanese Kanji, and old Korean Hanja means several things including: to reflect upon oneself; to examine one's conscience; to question oneself; to search one's soul; reflection; reconsideration; introspection; meditation; contemplation; regret; repentance; remorse.
This encompasses the idea of meditation.
It's also a term used to describe a deep form of day-dreaming, exploring one's imagination, the act of contemplating, or the idea of contemplation. 冥想 is often associated with Buddhism, however, the word "Zen" in Japanese (or "Chan" in Chinese) is probably more commonly used (or better known in the west).
See Also: Zen
三昧 is the Chinese, Japanese Kanji, and old Korean Hanja way to write Samādhi.
Samadhi is the state of intense concentration achieved through meditation.
Some will define Samādhi as putting together, composing the mind, intent contemplation, perfect absorption, or union of the meditator with the object of meditation.
念 is the simplest way to write "mindfulness" in Chinese, Japanese Kanji, and old Korean Hanja.
念 can be defined these ways: To read; to study (a degree course); to read aloud; to miss somebody (keeping them in your mind); idea; remembrance; sense; thought; feeling; desire; concern; attention; recollection; memory; to think on/about; reflect; repeat, intone; a moment.
Obviously, the context in which the character is used determines which definition or meaning is perceived. As a single character, it's open and perhaps ambiguous. Thus, it can be read with any or all of these meanings.
念 is used in a Buddhist context (often written as 正念 or "right mindfulness") with similar meanings of thought and contemplation.
In Japanese, this character is sometimes used as a name "Nen."
The following table may be helpful for those studying Chinese or Japanese...
|Title||Characters||Romaji (Romanized Japanese)||Various forms of Romanized Chinese|
|Zen Contemplation||入定||rù dìng / ru4 ding4 / ru ding / ruding||ju ting / juting|
|zen||chán / chan2 / chan||ch`an / chan|
|理念 / 理唸|
|ri nen / rinen||lǐ niàn / li3 nian4 / li nian / linian||li nien / linien|
|意見||i ken / iken||yì jiàn / yi4 jian4 / yi jian / yijian||i chien / ichien|
|意念 / 意唸|
|yì niàn / yi4 nian4 / yi nian / yinian||i nien / inien|
|思想||shisou / shiso||sī xiǎng / si1 xiang3 / si xiang / sixiang||ssu hsiang / ssuhsiang|
|Sit in Meditation||坐禪|
|za zen / zazen||zuò chán / zuo4 chan2 / zuo chan / zuochan||tso ch`an / tsochan / tso chan|
|Truth Flashed Through The Mind||參悟|
|cān wù / can1 wu4 / can wu / canwu||ts`an wu / tsanwu / tsan wu|
|Reflect||反省||hansei / hanse||fǎn xǐng / fan3 xing3 / fan xing / fanxing||fan hsing / fanhsing|
|Meditation||冥想||mei sou / meisou / mei so / meiso||míng xiǎng|
|Samadhi||三昧||san mai / sanmai||sān mèi / san1 mei4 / san mei / sanmei|
|Mindfulness||念||nen||niàn / nian4 / nian||nien|
|In some entries above you will see that characters have different versions above and below a line.|
In these cases, the characters above the line are Traditional Chinese, while the ones below are Simplified Chinese.
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Professional calligraphers are getting to be hard to find these days.
Instead of drawing characters by hand, the new generation in China merely type roman letters into their computer keyboards and pick the character that they want from a list that pops up.
There is some fear that true Chinese calligraphy may become a lost art in the coming years. Many art institutes in China are now promoting calligraphy programs in hopes of keeping this unique form of art alive.
Even with the teachings of a top-ranked calligrapher in China, my calligraphy will never be good enough to sell. I will leave that to the experts.
The same calligrapher who gave me those lessons also attracted a crowd of thousands and a TV crew as he created characters over 6-feet high. He happens to be ranked as one of the top 100 calligraphers in all of China. He is also one of very few that would actually attempt such a feat.
Check out my lists of Japanese Kanji Calligraphy Wall Scrolls and Old Korean Hanja Calligraphy Wall Scrolls.
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