Do we know any Zen teachers/masters that do not have Chinese origins and do not speak Chinese? For example English?

P.S. I know that such type of logical questions are taken humorously in the zen culture, as it does not really matter but still my "small mind" is curious. Does one need to know Chinese in order to get to the heart of the teachings?

  • What is "Zen" in your context? Zen this word has been used indiscriminately lately in architectural, tea ritual, fashion, life style... Zen is a Japanese translation of 禪, Chinese Pinyin is "Chán", Sanskrit "Dhyāna". If you are talking about the original "Zen", inherited by Mahākāśyapa bought to China by Bodhidharama related to the Koans (公案) of the Ancient Chinese Chán Masters, ie, an enlightened master is about to use a word, sentence, 棒喝 (bàng hè, knock and shout) to enlighten the student, afraid the master no longer exists in this time of the world, neither does a ready student available. Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 3:09

4 Answers 4


In Australia, America and many other countiries, many zen temples offer classes in both English and Chinese (separately).


Of course! There are plenty of American roshis who never took a day of Chinese in their lives. Frankly, not knowing any language would be even better than knowing Chinese. ;-)


Not really but when looking for good sources to learn from make sure translations are accurate and be ware of teachers that are those new age hippies that say Buddhism is not about rebirth, karma, has no gods, Zen is not Buddhism, etc.


I just stumbled upon an extract from the book "Zen mind, Beginner's Mind" that fits the question very well! I'm sure this quote from the book will save many smart or intelligent people from wasting their time!

The best way to develop Buddhism is to sit in zazen—just to sit, with a firm conviction in our true nature. This way is much better than to read books or study the philosophy of Buddhism. If you want to be a sincere Buddhist, the best way is to sit. We are very fortunate to have a place to sit in this way. I want you to have a firm, wide, imperturbable conviction in your zazen of just sitting. Just to sit, that is enough. Reality cannot be caught by thinking or feeling mind. Moment after moment to watch your breathing, to watch your posture, is true nature. There is no secret beyond this point.

Of course, "the best" are just relative 2 words that the authors try to simplify the whole book but I thought it'd be useful for the "mind wanderers" like me to settle down. Knowing that it comes from an expert, haha!

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