Origins

Despite the fascination of some in the West with the "Zen and the way of the samurai" ideal, westernized Zen has not become militaristic nor has the assimilation of popular Zen converted democracies into totalitarian strongholds. It is equally important to note that while popular books and films may present a distorted view of Zen, Zen in the West is anchored by a strong and legitimate community that does not shun Zen rituals and devotional practices, but, rather, actively engages in them.

In addition to the critique of popular interpretations, there also have been many excellent scholarly studies of Chan and Zen in the last several decades. Some of these studies have been done by professors at western universities who are also Zen monks, but free of the "missionary zeal" and "vexed frustrations" of Sharf's "globe-trotting Zen priests." Others are the work of scholars who are well-versed in the relevant languages and educated in the broader tradition of Buddhist scholarship. There have been a number of breakthroughs in historical and textual studies of Zen and Chan, encouraged by the cooperative efforts of scholars from both sides of the globe. If there was an imbalance in the quality of scholarship on Zen in the West, in comparison with other forms of Buddhism, it is rapidly being corrected.


Study Questions:
1.     Why is contemporary westernized Zen viewed as inauthentic?
2.     Describe the “Protestantization” of Zen.
3.     Why has violence often been associated with Zen?

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