Zen (Chinese: 禪; pinyin: Chán; Korean: 선, translit. Seon) is a school of Mahayana Buddhism that originated in China during the Tang dynasty as Zen Buddhism. Zen school was strongly influenced by Taoism and developed as a distinct school of Chinese Buddhism. From China, Chan Buddhism spread south to Vietnam, northeast to Korea and east to Japan, where it became known as Seon Buddhism and Japanese Zen, respectively.
The term Zen is derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the Middle Chinese word 禪 (Chan) which traces its roots to the Indian practice of Dhyāna ("meditation").[note 1] Zen emphasizes rigorous self-control, meditation-practice, insight into Buddha-nature, and the personal expression of this insight in daily life, especially for the benefit of others. As such, it de-emphasizes mere knowledge of sutras and doctrine and favors direct understanding through zazen and interaction with an accomplished teacher.
The teachings of Zen include various sources of Mahayana thought, especially Yogachara, the Tathāgatagarbha sūtras and the Huayan school, with their emphasis on Buddha-nature, totality, and the Bodhisattva-ideal. The Prajñāpāramitā literature and, to a lesser extent, Madhyamaka have also been influential in the shaping of the "paradoxical language" of the Zen-tradition.
The word Zen is derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the Middle Chinese word 禪 (dʑjen) (pinyin: Chán), which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna (ध्यान ), which can be approximately translated as "absorption" or "meditative state".