In fact, the methods of yoga during this time was reduced to strong asceticism like food deprivation , extreme fasting, or standing on one leg.
Through this and a series of exercises, the yogi trained himself not to be affected by external stimuli and control the slightest movement of his own spirit.
The Buddha practiced this yoga for twelve years from the time he decided to renounce the world. He met with great saints and scholars, covering the four corners of the country. Finally Buddha din not find trough yoga the answer to two essential questions: What is man? How should man live?
Zen was introduced to China by Bodhidharma, a teacher representing the twenty-eighth generation of disciples of the Buddha. At this time China was divided into rival states struggling for power. The country was under tyrants and torn apart by rebellion.
The Liang dynasty ruled over one of the states of ancient China. The Emperor Wu-Ti, the head of this dynasty and a convinced Buddhist, heard about Bodhidharma and received him in his palace. When Wu-Ti asked him: «What is the fundamental principle of Buddhism?» Bodhidharma replied, «A huge void. A clear sky. A sky in which the enlightened are indistinguishable from the ignorant. The world itself as it is.»
Wu-Ti, even though he was a fervent Buddhist, did not understand the message of Bodhidharma.The latter knew that was to early to spread Zen in China so he crossed the Yangtze River and retired in the northern mountains, in the Temple Shorin.
In Japan only Rinzai and Soto schools achieved an important implementation, the first due to Eisai and the second one to Dogen and Keizer. Rinzai tradition is based on strict discipline aimed at disrupting the mental creations. The Koan ,a difficult enigmatic question ,is of great importance and its resolution, beyond the intellect, leads to the experience of Satori and Awakening.
The Soto tradition mainly focus the attention on the Way of the Buddha, that is, following the daily life of Buddha, approching realization trought daily practice, without expecting anything special. The essence of Soto is Shikantaza: sit, just sit.
With Master Dogen (1200-1254) Soto tradition and the essence of Buddhism reached the top of its maturity. His masterpiece, the Shobogenzo is the key for the understanding of Buddhism and all Oriental civilization.
Zen has had a profound influence on the daily life of Japanese people. This influence can be seen in every aspect of Japanese life: food, clothing, paintings, calligraphy, architecture, theater, music, gardening, decorating, etc.
Even today, despite the fact that many Japanese do not know what Zen is, the imprint of this teaching can be seen on their behavior and manifestatios; deeply into the japaneese souls.