Zenshō Daenism
Major ProphetsBahram Bidar, Bahman, Li Feizi, Kui Yang, Han Shang, Li Ci
ScriptureSutra of Daena, Esoteric Sutra, Treatise on Suffering, Book of the Lotus
RegionIndrala, Mikuni-Hulstria, Sekowo, Dankuk
Foundedseventh century CE
Branched fromDaenism
Liturgical languageClassical Kunikata, Indralan

Zenshō Daenism (Gao-Indralan: 禪乘 Zenshō, Chánchéng/Chánsheng, Seonseung) or Daênâyanâ is the branch of Daenism that was born and spread in Dovani in the 7th century, heavily influenced by traditional Gao-Showan religions, characterized by anti-realism, iconoclasm, and a rejection of some of the main tenets of Mazdâyanâ Daenism.


The name of this school of Daenism comes from Ancient Aldegarian Daênâyanâ, meaning "Vehicle of Revelation/Insight". In Gao-Indralan languages Daênâ was initially translated as 禪那 (Chánnà, Zenna, Seongna), later simplified as 禪 (Chán/Zen/Seong), and refers to the central concept in Daenism.


Daenic Monks

Aldegarian and Indralan monks in the 7th century

Daenism first arrived in Indrala from Seleya during the Qin period and the Indralan Dark Ages. Those troubled times were very productive philosophically, and the interaction between traditional Daenism and Gao-Showan Religions eventually led to the creation of Zenshō. This religion was later introduced to Gao-Soto during the Classical Era of the Empire of Gao-Soto, in 845. Enjoying imperial patronage, Zenshō spread on the entire west coast of Dovani, and was officially introduced in 1193 in the Kyo Kingdom.

Zenshō originated as a reaction to what was seen by Gao-Indralan monks as the essentialization of the Bidars and the assumption of a Bidar nature in Mazdayana, seen as establishing an eternal unchanging self, which would violate the core Daenic doctrine of non-self. The goal of the early Zenshō teachers was to free Daenic soteriology from essentialist notions, by emphasizing the old Daenic concept of naêcishta ("emptiness"), at first understood as synonymous to the Guidao wu/mu ("nothingness"). In the Zenshō school there is no transcendental reality beyond this phenomenal world, which itself lacks inherent existence.

In modern times Zenshō became (in)famous due to its close association with Gao-Showa nationalism. Zenshō has a long history of association with violence, originating with the sōhei or "warrior monks" during the Middle Ages, although the contradiction in being a Daenic "warrior monk" caused controversy even at the time. During the colonial era in Hulstria and Indrala Zenshō warrior monks would occasionally be engaged in violence against the colonial power. The association between Zenshō and violence culminated in Zenshō Socialism, a political ideology based on Gao-Showa nationalism, Communism, and Zenshō Daenism that explicitly advocated the use of violence and war, justified as "killing one in order that many may live" (issatsu tashō) as a form of "benevolent forcefulness".


Enso drawing

The Ensō circle symbolizes absolute enlightenment and mu (emptiness).

Zenshō has a rich doctrinal background, despite the traditional Zenshō claim that the school does not stand on words or texts. The philosophical roots of Zenshō stem all the way back from the earliest Daenic texts, but its currently recognizable form developed gradually as a reaction to Mazdayana and with the background of traditional Gao-Showa philosophy.

Central to Zenshō philosophy is naêcishta, "emptiness" or "nothingness". The term refers to the "emptiness" of inherent existence; because all phenomena arise according to conditions, they can have no inherent nature and are thus empty of "substance" or inherent existence. But "emptiness" itself is also "empty". It does not have inherent existence, nor does it refer to a transcendental reality beyond or above phenomenal reality. Conventionally, "things" do exist, but their existence is experiential, not ontological. Ultimately all "things" are "empty" of inherent existence, as there cannot be anything with a true, substantial existent nature. If there is no true existent, then there can be no non-existent. The ultimate truth of naêcishta does not refer to "nothingness" or "non-existence", but it refers to the absence of inherent existence; ultimate emptiness does not refer to an essence or nature that everything is made of, as emptiness itself is empty.

The Zenshō belief in the emptiness of things is best illustrated by a traditional Zenshō kōan: "If you meet the Bidar, kill him." Thinking about the Bidar as an entity or deity endowed with inherent existence is a delusion, not enlightenment. Grasping on the Bidar or actively pursuing enlightenment is itself a defilement, as it is still a form of attachment and thus an impediment to enlightenment, as ultimately, as there is no inherent existence, there is no difference between Bidars and non-enlightened beings, or between hamjarian (samsara) and enlightenment.



Zenshō practitioners engaged in shikantaza in a meditation hall

The ultimate aim of understanding emptiness is not philosophical insight as such, but to gain a liberated mind which does not dwell upon concepts. To realize this, meditation on emptiness may proceed in stages, starting with the emptiness of both self, objects and mental states culminating in a natural state of freedom from concepts and beliefs. Zenshō practitioners are encouraged to remain in a state of perpetual inquiry, as Zenshō rejects the possibility of attaining truth by sensory apprehension, reason, or the two combined, and consequently affirms the need for total suspension of judgment. Enlightenment is the result to be attained by suspension of belief. The core Zenshō practices are thus seen as a way to achieve freedom from concepts and beliefs, and so there are two primary practices of the school. Shikantaza, meaning "nothing but sitting", is a form of seated meditation where the mind has no object at all. Shikantaza is not just sitting while doing nothing; the goal of the practice is awareness of everything that arises in the mind and body, requiring alertness and diligence. The shikantaza practitioner has to be completely unconcerned with benefits or the accomplishment of ulterior goals, but merely be aware of the present moment. Another central practice in Zenshō is kōan study. Kōans are seemingly meaningless or paradoxical statements with no obvious solution or answer; the goal of kōans is not to find the answer to a riddle, but a means to suspend discursive thought. Analyzing the kōan for its literal meaning will not lead to insight, but the suspension of concept-bound thinking will.

Gao Gao-Showans
Peoples Central: KunihitoSekowansKyo | Northern: UtariWelang | Southern: IndralansĐinhPhra | Western: TukareseMu-TzeBianjie
Languages Gao-Indralan: KunikataSekowanKyoIndralanĐinhPhraUtari | Jelbo-Tukaric: PanmuanBianjie
Regions DovaniSeleyaGao-SotoSekowoDankukIndralaTukaraliJinlianDaliborGreat North Dovani PlainKalistanBianjie
History Empire of Gao-SotoKingdom of SekowoHistory of SekowoHistory of IndralaHistory of DranlandHistory of TukaraliGreat Sekowian WarSouthern Hemisphere War
Religion Gao-Showan ReligionsDaenismMazdâyanâZenshōKamismGuidaoJienismKanzo
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