Within Zen Buddhism, there are five major lines active today:

Vietnamese Bodhidharma

  • Ch'an(Chinese) Master Sheng-yen from Taiwan is the best-known Chinese master active. His writings are exquisitely clear.
  • Vietnamese Folks are often surprised to know that Vietnamese Buddhism is derived from Ch'an rather than from Southern Buddhism. Well-known exemplars of this tradition include the late Ven. Thich Thien-An and of course Thich Nhat Hahn, author of "Old Path, White Clouds" and many other books.
  • Rinzai Derived from the Ch'an master Lin Chi, the Japanese Rinzai school is known for extensive use of koans. Joshu Sasaki Roshi is the senior Rinzai master in the US; several masters who teach in the West have Rinzai and Soto credentials, and one combines Rinzai and Chogye.
  • Soto Derived from the T'sao tung school, brought to Japan by the Zen Master Eihei Dogen, this school emphasizes shikan-taza and the formula of practice = enlightenment. Shunryu Suzuki Roshi is the father of American Soto. The Soto school is the majority Zen school in Japan.
  • Chogye (Korean) This school is similar to the Chinese, and was also strongly influenced by the heirs of Lin Chi. We know of the Korean tradition largely through the efforts of Zen Master Seung Sahn, whose Kwan Um School of Zen has centers around the world.