To study the buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly.
This quote brings the essence of Zen practice. The author is Master Dogen, a 13th century monk who brought the Soto Zen school from China to Japan. The origin of Zen dates back to the 6th century when Bodidarma went from India to China. The focus is the practice of meditation in silence, facing the wall or zazen, which is doing what the Buddha did.
Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha attained enlightenment while sitting in meditation under the Bodi tree. It was years of searching, during which he realized the importance of the middle way. He realized from his own experience that neither the super comfortable life nor the ascetic practices led to the understanding of the causes of human suffering nor how to free themselves from it. The Buddha’s enlightenment led him to awaken to the interconnection between all that exists, impermanence, nothing is fixed, nothing permanent. He spoke about the 4 Noble Truths, first life always involves suffering, according to the origin of suffering, our ignorance and mistaken view that there is a Self separate from all that exists. Third, the cessation of suffering, which happens when we awaken to our enlightened nature, and which is always available. And fourth, the Way, by living an ethical life, practicing meditation and developing wisdom, we can reach the same state of enlightenment as Buddha.
The focus of Zen is the practice of meditation and the importance of everyday life. Enlightenment is not separate from the way you live your life. One story that well illustrates the emphasis of Zen is that of the Monk who entered the Monastery and went to ask for teachings for Master Chao Chou. The Master asked the monk if he had eaten the food, the monk said yes. Chao Chou said “Go wash your bowls”. And the monk understood.