You hear a lot about Zen Buddhism and as you look forward to learn more about it, you realize that this is a little different from the traditional Buddhism or Tibetan Buddhism that you have known so far. ‘What is the difference between Zen Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism’, you will ask. ‘Is there any difference at all?’

Zen Buddhism

Zen Buddhism

Zen Buddhism is often interpreted as the study of self. The origin of Zen – unlike common belief that point to China or Japan – is tracked to an Indian master by the name of Bodhidharma. Counted as the 28th master in the hierarchy from the Buddha, he is known as Shi Da Yang in China and Daruma Taishi in Japan.

The basic teaching of Zen is to focus on inner meditation to discover the Buddha within yourself. An important term associated with the Zen Buddhism is Zazen which is a combination of two Japanese words, i.e. za, which means ‘to sit’ and zen, which means meditation/ concentration/ contemplation.

Zen Buddhism encourages everyone to look within for happiness and attainments of the enlightenment of Buddha. Many renowned and well respected Zen masters did not know to read or write, yet they gained and taught enlightenment effortlessly.

Zen teaches or rather goads the mind to look beyond its realm of easy comprehension of the universal truth, and contemplate on the truth within; on ‘who am I?’. Zen has two goals:

  • The first is a little easier to achieve enlightenment
  • The second is to become a Bodhisattva, or the compassionate one in mind and spirit so you could become one with the Universe

Tibetan Buddhism

Tibetan Buddhism

Tibetan Buddhism is more or less a systematic way of practicing the values, principles and teaching of Buddha towards attaining all consuming compassion. This is one of the most important differences between the Tibetan Buddhism and any other type of Buddhism practiced in other parts of the world.

Tibetan Buddhism, which many say is the true cradle of the Buddhist doctrine, emphasizes that the only sure path to enlightenment is through the practice of loving compassion for not only fellow human beings but for every living thing around us.


Towards this goal, the Bodhisattva activities are divided into 4 major types:

  1. Generosity – A Buddhist does not need to be told to be generous. He/ She would instinctively know when a person needs help and give generously food, clothes, or whatever may be needed from what possessions the Buddhist has. This will be done without any type of expectation, out of pure compassion and desire to reduce a fellow human being’s sorrow/ pain/ grief.
  2. Pleasant Speech – A Buddhist knows that nothing said in anger can come to any positive outcome. This is because at such time the mind is not at peace and therefore whatever decision it takes is wrong. This is why a Buddhist practices calm even when faced with anger and replies only when the mind is clear of any negative feelings.
  3. Beneficial conduct – Everything a Buddhist does is for the benefit of others. He/ She acts in compliance with the Universe and tries his/ her best to perform kind deeds wherever they go, and in whatever circumstance they find themselves.
  4. Consistency of word and deed – A Buddhist is a like a torch that points to the enlightenment path. Hence, he/ she would try his best to practice what they preach by focusing on compassion.

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  • Bbbakang

    Thank you

  • nobody

    This article seems very misinformed. As a former Zen practitioner I can tell you that there are similarities and differences you failed to mention. You need to do more research before making such arbitrary, blanket statements.