Seeing your nature is zen. Unless you see your nature, it’s not zen. ~Bodhidharma, The First Ancestor of Zen in China (Trans. Red Pine)
When the Indian Prince, Siddhartha, discovered that everyone eventually suffered from old age, sickness and death, he was so horrified, he refused his throne and set out to liberate all beings.
After trying a variety of practices, he finally sat down under a tree and meditated. After six years, he suddenly realized that all beings were free from old age, sickness, and death, and only delusion kept them from realizing this fact. Thus, he became known as the Buddha (“awakened one”).
About 1000 years later this teaching was brought to China by another “awakened one” named Bodhidharma. Like the Buddha, he claimed people had always been free from old age, sickness, and death and needed only to “see their nature” to realize it. To “see their nature” people needed only “behold their own mind.”
Observing Bodhidharma’s students practicing dhyana (meditation), people called the teaching “Ch’an” – which is the Chinese pronunciation of “dhyana.” So began the tradition known to most westerners by its Japanese pronunciation, “Zen.” For more than 1500 years the Zen masters have affirmed the teaching of awakening by pointing to the human mind.