If you visit a Zen Temple you may think it is a Japanese cultural religion, however, that is a deception.
The Zen we know here in the West came to us from Japan, and the Ancient Japanese Culture that we see in the Zen Centers is baggage!
It is a profound mistake to think that Zen and the Japanese culture are one and the same!
A local cultural religion
A religion that is founded upon a people or place is considered a cultural or native religion. Examples are: Shinto, Native American, Hinduism, and Judaism.
As an example: In Japan, there is Shinto, a religion/belief in that the Japanese people themselves are holy, and the Japanese Lands infused with gods and spirits.
In Japan, shrines are built next to waterfalls, caves, mountains, and forests to worship the local spirits and gods.
It would be impossible to import Shinto to the West to non-Japanese people and Non-Japanese lands.
Zen has traveled through Asia, The Far-east, and now to the west. In each culture it goes through, lots of cultural baggage is picked up.
Zen In Japan picked up the Chinese Baggage, where Japanese Zen Monks chant in Sino-Japanese, that is Japanese mimicking Chinese who were mimicking Pali. There are also many customs and rituals in Japanese Zen that are imported from China and even Asia.
So as you can see, the Zen we know in the western Zen Centers has picked up a lot of baggage.
Zen transcends culture
Zen is a philosophy of transformation, and a religious path of dedication and commitment, that is not dependent on any of the baggage picked up in its travels through time and culture. Those who believe (deluded) that the Baggage is the philosophy and religion itself, are not on The Path of Zen.
Zen as you are
So, to summarize:
- Zen is a philosophy and religious path
- Zen has picked up lots of cultural baggage
- People mistake the baggage as Zen
- The Path of Zen has no need of the baggage
Lose the bags!