Zen Buddhism in West Differs from Japanese Roots

March 29, 2004

Source: Beliefnet.com


On March 29, 2004 Beliefnet.com posted an excerpt from "The Path of the Human Being" by Dennis Genpo Merzel, a Zen Buddhist monk. Under the heading "The Dharma Doesn't Discriminate," Beliefnet printed a section of the book dealing with Zen's adaptation to Western culture. Merzel writes, "Are we simply trying to act Buddhist, or is the living Dharma still maintained somehow in these ancient rituals? This is a fair and important question to ask. Although Zen Buddhism didn't become strongly established in America until the 1960s, the practice has since gone through many changes. In fact, the way we Westerners practice Zen is nearly unrecognizable to a monk from Japan...Zen teachers in the West are struggling with the question of how much change can be introduced without risk of losing the living essence of the Dharma. Each one of us must accept the responsibility of bringing Zen into our culture in a way that seems right. One of the beauties of Zen always has been its ability to adapt to new situations, to fill any container into which it is poured. Western culture is the new pot that is being filled by Zen -- and for everyone, whether we're a teacher or a beginning student, our body is a container for the practice. Zen will fill this container perfectly."