Zen Buddhist Sects
There are three Zen Buddhist sects in Japan.
About Soto Zen Buddhism
Soto is the largest of the three Zen Buddhist sects. It follows the method of “zazen,” just sitting with no deliberate thought. Transmitted by Dogen Zenji from China to Japan in 1244, Soto Zen emphasizes shikantaza – meditation with no object; the meditator is just aware of the stream of thoughts, noticing their arising and passing away, with no involvement in or commitment to them. Soto Zen appeals to those who want a simple, direct approach to quiet the dualistic, thinking mind. One does not have to perform any particular action to develop mindfulness; one just has to be aware – moment to moment – of whatever one is doing.
Rinzai Zen Buddhism
The Rinzai sect of Buddhism employs the koan method for insight – the use of questions that cause the mind to expand beyond its right/wrong dualities to the experience of “no mind.” Famous koan: “What is the sound of one-hand clapping?
Ōbaku Zen Buddhism
With a few notable exceptions, such as the style of sutra chanting, the third Zen sect – Ōbaku – appears very like its Rinzai neighbors. Statistically the smallest school or sect of Zen in modern-day Japan, it is known to be more conservative and intellectually and artistically inclined than Soto Zen.