The differences between Ch'an Buddhism and Pure Land Buddhism are bound to produce some confusion and misinterpretation. The following are simplified charts comparing and contrasting these paths.

Ch'an/Zen and 5 Elements Pure Land


5 Elements Pure Land

Major Emphasis

Developing the eye of Wisdom

Abiding in the Heart of Compassion

Personal Turning Point

Raising the Great Doubt Experiencing Serene Trust
Major Practices

T'so-Ch'an (J. Zazen),

Kung-An (J. Koan)

Silent Illumination (J. Shikan-taza)


Walking and Chanting Practice

Sutra Reading, Recitation,

Atonement & Veneration

Visualization, Unified Practice

Transference of Merit

Elements of Faith

Buddhas and Bodhisattvas

Ancestors and Teachers

Amitabha buddha

Amitabha's Vows

Compassion of All Buddhas

Types of Vows

To save all sentient beings / To end delusions

To master the teachings / To follow the Way

To abide by the Precepts

Rebirth into the Pure Land

To save all sentient beings

To see Amitabha Buddha at the moment of death

To abide by the Precepts

Object of Meditative ConcentrationOne's True NatureAmitabha Buddha


How the Two Paths Complement Each Other

Ch'an/Zen5 Elements Pure Land
Refines WisdomOpens the Heart of Compassion
The direct realization of Emptiness and the aspiration for Enlightenment allows true Compassion to grow.The realization of oneness with Boundless Compassion opens the Eye of Wisdom
Focuses concentration, which helps to calm the agitated mindCalms the agitated mind, which helps one's concentration