Zen Talk

Dark Zen

Dark Zen

What is Dark Zen

Dark Zen is a criticism of Modern Zen, where it challenges the Western Zen students to look deeper at the philosophy and teachings of Zen, and transcend the cultural appropriation that all too many Zen Centers apparently are stuck on.

Dark Zen is not a new school of Zen, nor is it anything new. Linji, known as Rinzai is the original Dark Zennist, who in the 800AD criticized Chinese Ch’an, where it grew decadent, complacent, and corrupted. It was through his criticism that the Rinzai branch of Zen grew, and his efforts did help Ch’an to reform itself over time.

Who founded Dark Zen

Dark Zen was founded by Ardent Hollingsworth and Mark Vetanen in 1997. 

Ardent Hollingsworth known as the pen name Zenmar is a Buddhist scholar and researcher. He has written much about Buddhism and Zen and publishes a newsletter titled ‘The Zennist’.

Mark Vetanen is a Zen scholar and researcher who run the youtube channel The Path of Zen.

Reactions to Dark Zen

When Dark Zen first came out, there was a negative reaction from the Western Zen community in denial of the criticism made. However, as Dark Zen criticism where echoed by many long term Zen practitioners, and the Dark Zen revolution grew.

Dark Zen eventually became BANNED at many prominent Zen Centers in the West. Students who brought up the criticism were labeled as Dark Zennist, and kicked out of the Zen Centers.Today, most Zen students find the Dark Zen criticism on the Internet, and those criticism are still true to this day. The Dark Zen revolution continues with the hopes of reforming western Zen away from the extreme LARPing and cultural baggage that all to many mistake as for the actual Zen Practice.

Dark Zen is not a sect

There is no Dark Zen sect, temples, teachers, or membership. As I said, Dark Zen is a criticism of Zen in the West that anyone can understand and plainly determine the validity of the criticism themselves.

To become deaf to criticism is to remain ignorant. One needs criticism to grow, to learn and to discover. 

“Should you find a wise critic to point out your faults, follow him as you would a guide to a hidden treasure” – The Buddha


Non-aligned Zen Teacher currently living in Las Vegas, Nevada USA Youtube Channel Website