Zen is the Japanese version of Ch’an in China.


After this lesson, the student will know what is the central practice in Zen


  • Ch’an Worksheet
  • Ch'an Worksheet-Answers
  • Bell (optional, borrow from minister, you can also download a smartphone app)
  • Wooden Stick (optional, dowel at least 4 feet long)
  • Paper or cloth towels for wiping the floor


  • Print out sufficient copies of the Worksheets. Place in order.
  • Put Bell and Stick at front of class


  1. Opening Gassho.
  2. Introduction
    1. Ask what the students where they are in our journey following the path of Buddhism? (Maybe 30 seconds)
    2. Ask what the students know about Zen?
  3. Exposition
    1. Pass out Ch’an Worksheet
    2. Read the master. Have students fill out the Worksheet as you read.
  4. Practices
    1. Sitting Meditation
      1. Explain the purpose (Clear the mind, listen to the mind & body, think about concepts). Today, the purpose is to clear the mind for 5 min
      2. Use the Bell to signify when to go into meditation.
      3. The students are to breath 5 count breath in, hold, 5 count breath out hold.
      4. You should patrol the room. Tell them that if they need, you will tap their shoulder with the stick. Demonstrate to a volunteer.
      5. After 5 minutes, ask for “Gassho”
      6. Ask what they felt and thought.
      7. Repeat after giving them a prompt “to think about the chain of causal events”(To think about all the things that allowed them be here today, then think about thanking each person.
      8. Repeat after giving them a prompt "to see the golden foot of Amida Buddha, ankles, legs, waist, chest, neck, lips, nose, eyes" Go from one part to the next slowly 10 seconds so between them. Conclude with them seeing the light get brighter and brighter.
    2. Koan
      1. Explain what is a “Ko-an” Buddhist Riddle to get the mind thinking about Buddhism. By confusing the mind and having the mind come up with a “solution,” it brings eventual clarity of mind. It is NOT to know the solution, the important thing is to work out an “solution” on your own.
      2. Listening and thinking about it (in quiet meditation)
        1. Gassho
        2. Breathing. 5 in 5 out
        3. Koans
          1. Disciple asks the Master, “What is Buddha?” Master: “The Mind is the Buddha”
          2. Another disciple asks the Master, “What is Buddha?” Master: “The Mind is not Buddha”
          3. Master asks the Disciple: “What are you trying to achieve by sitting?” Disciple: “I am trying to become a Buddha” Master picks up a brick and starts polishing. Disciple: “Master what are you doing?” Master: “Trying to make a mirror” Disciple: “You can’t make a mirror by polishing a brick” Master: “You can’t become a Buddha by just sitting”
          4. Think about this.
      3. Share any “solutions”
    3. Working Meditation
      1. Clean the room Japanese style:
        1. Using wet paper towels clean the table tops
        2. Clean the floor
        3. Clean windows
        4. No talking. Start and end w/ Gassho.
  5. Review & Summarize
  6. Closing Gassho


During Review ask, "Who founded Zen?" "What kinds of meditation?" "What did you think of the koan?"


This can be made into a multiday lesson. Also it is worth visiting a Zen temple or fellowship afterwards.


Mas Nishimura, nish221.at.gmail.dot.com, San Jose Betsuin, 2018