BBC In Our Time - Zen Listening Guide


This is an optional listening guide to help you understand the assigned material. Below you will find questions to consider as you listen. You can find the original audio material by clicking here.

Note that the word zen is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word chán (), called seon () in Korean and thiền in Vietnamese. The original Sanskrit term is dhyāna (ध्यान). The English meaning is “meditation”.

[1:24] Buddhism in ChinaWhat are the circumstances of Buddhism’s arrival in China? You might want to look up the terms “scripture”, monastery”, “novelty”, “academic”, “isolate”, “vulnerable”, and persecution”.

[3:43] Emergence of Chan (Zen)How and why does Chan Buddhism (Zen Buddhism in Japanese) emerge in China? Who was Bodhidharma? You might want to check the terms “incidentally”, “secular”, “essence”, “sequence”, and gloomy”.

[5:11] Sudden EnlightenmentWhat is the idea of “sudden enlightenment” in Zen? You might want to look up the words “liberation”, “innate”, “conceive”, “misguided”, “realization”, “polemical”, “slogan”, “ideological”, “doctrine”, “inherent”, “explicate”, “articulate”, “obstacle”, “refrain”, “promulgate”, “digression”, “linguistic”, andgloss over”.

[9:33] Chan (Zen) in JapanHow does Zen come to Japan? Who are Eisai and Dogen? What is zazen? You might want to look up the words monastic”, “discipline”, “lineage”, “mainstream”, and esoteric”.

[12:57] Two Streams in ZenWhat are the “two streams” of Zen? What is a kōan? You might want to look up the words “technique”, “prompt”, “interaction”, “controversy”, “vigorous”, “verse”, “distinctive”, and intellect”.

[15:10] More about the KōanWhat examples of kōans are given? How are they used? You might want to look up the terms “sermon”, “own accord”, “recipient”, “excerpt”, “snippet”, “potent”, andirony”.

[17:40] More about ZazenWhat is the significance of zazen? You might want to check the terms “posture”, “iconography”, “imitate”, “perception”, “ritualize”, “pedantic”, “diminish”, andexclusive”.

[20:54] Buddha MindWhat does it mean to say “great doubt leads to great enlightenment”? What is “Buddha mind”? You might to look up the terms “integrate”, “manual labour”, and “parasite”.

[23:35] MeditationIn what was is meditation “the core of it [Zen]”? What does it mean when a Zen master says something like “don’t try to attain enlightenment”? You might want to check the words “abstract”, “context”, “presume”, “institution”, “manifest”, and elaborate”.

[26:34] MonasteriesWhy are there Zen monasteries? What are they like? You might want to look up the words “pre-existent”, “sponsor”, “aristocracy”, “funerary rites, “abbot”, “laypeople”, “ordination”, posthumous”, “precept”, and patriarch”.

[29:44] Zen and the ArtsHow does Zen relate to poetry? You might want to check the terms “visualize”, “terminology”, “compressed”, “ineffable”, “encapsulate”, “calligraphy”, and export”.

[31:54] Zen and the SamuraiWhat is the relationship between Zen and the samurai? You might want to look up the terms “patronize”, “state religion”, “legitimize”, “elite”, “stern”, acculturation”, “archer”, “martial arts”, “inscribe”, and characterize”.

[36:29] D. T. SuzukiWho was D. T. Suzuki? You might want to look up the terms “reconsideration”, “presuppose”, “preoccupation”, and immediacy”.

[38:05] Zen in the 20th CenturyWhat role did Buddhism play in World War II? How was it received in America? You might want to look up the terms “suppress”, “relevant”, “reluctance”, “prerequisite”, “moral”, “savory”, “rhetorical”, “antinomic”, and extract”.

[42:07] Lineage [bonus material] What is the role of lineage in Zen? You might want to check the terms “authority” andcontemporary”.

Important Vocabulary

scripture

monastery

novelty

academic

isolate

vulnerable

persecution

incidentally

secular

essence

sequence

gloomy

liberate

innate

conceive

misguided

realization

polemical

slogan

ideological

doctrine

inherent

explicate

articulate

obstacle

refrain

promulgate

digression

linguistic

gloss over

monastic

discipline

lineage

mainstream

esoteric

technique

prompt

interaction

controversy

vigorous

verse

distinctive

intellect

sermon

own accord

recipient

excerpt

snippet

potent

irony

posture

iconography

imitate

perception

ritualize

pedantic

diminish

exclusive

integrate

manual labour

parasite

abstract

context

presume

institution

manifest

elaborate

pre-existent

sponsor

aristocracy

funerary rites

abbot

laypeople

ordination

posthumous

precept

patriarch

visualize

terminology

compressed

ineffable

encapsulate

calligraphy

export

patronize

state religion

legitimize

elite

stern

acculturation

archer

martial arts

inscribe

characterize

reconsideration

presuppose

preoccupation

immediacy

suppress

relevant

reluctance

prerequisite

moral

savory

rhetorical

antinomic

extract

authority


contemporary