There is an appalling disparity between what humans are capable of and what they've actually accomplished. Under the rubric of religion the disparity has been significant with no apparent change on the horizon. Most human beings simply do not have the karmic potential to see how inadequate naive realism is which drives this disparity. They take everything at face value squandering their potential for higher wisdom, not realizing that their world is a fiction.
Some, not all, have even lost respect for those who have been able to penetrate through the rind of conditioned phenomena, who abide in the presence of the unconditioned absolute. This disrespect is firmly based on the belief that there is no underlying true reality, so why pursue its discovery? These same people might believe in a god, but this god is really the god of fortune. That's not much of a refuge—certainly not one worth seeking. One day a person might be lucky, the next day not so lucky.
The Buddha was not that interested in teaching people who clung, tenaciously, to naive realism who, essentially, were materialists and skeptics, or more often, hedonists. The Buddha understood that in order to realize the way things really are the individual must directly see the true nature of things. In order to do this, a person has to take off the spectacles of their presuppositions. In my opinion, here is where the appalling disparity I mentioned at the beginning of this blog gets its oxygen from. Most, unconsciously, refuse to take off their spectacles. They’ve served the individual well—why not keep them on when it comes to understanding Zen Buddhism?
What such a refusal gives birth to, however, is a huge distortion of Zen Buddhism, and just plain Buddhism for that matter. It doesn’t matter that the literature of Zen talks almost ad nauseam about realizing our true nature which is Buddha Mind. Popular Zen, or what I like to call ‘pop Zen’, doesn’t get this. These Zennists are not stupid—but they are stubborn; who are unwilling to let go of their presuppositions by which they have, over the years, constructed another kind of Zen that doesn’t tally with the traditional literature of Zen. Despite the fact that the history of Zen is far from consistent, for example, going from Tathagata Zen, then dumping that for Patriarch Zen, it has managed, nevertheless, to support mystical gnosis: that we must awaken to our true nature. This is not the case anymore with pop Zen.
For those who’ve decided to pursue Zen Buddhism like I did many years ago, not a single presupposition they’ve entertained as being something like enlightenment or “my true nature” will be found to be adequate should they awaken. The present day forms of Zen are not really Zen at all. Perhaps they are there to inspire us.