It is easy to speculate about Zen Buddhism in a superficial way or even, pejoratively, forming various opinions and ideas of what Zen is about. Treating Zen this way, it becomes nothing more than a plaything of our imagination This is a waste of time. Here the individual is under the sway of their own preconceived opinions and ideas which also includes a world-view of which they may not be aware.
Those who decide to go to a Zen center to study with a teacher fare a little better than those who read about Zen off of a computer monitor looking for quick answers, but more, looking to see if Zen tallies with their own impression of what they imagine Zen to be.
In my own example, I found some benefit from studying with a Zen teacher but it was nothing of profound benefit. Being exposed, however, to various books on Zen and being in a Zen temple helped. Also having an open mind helped, tremendously. Zen was for me, at 20 years of age, still a mystery. It took me a while to get the scent of Zen; to know where to look and what is not worth the trouble.
What I was reading in the temple that was intended to connect me with the basics of Zen Buddhism, over time, started to make sense. It seemed like I was making progress. But nothing impressed me as much as realizing that all Zen masters had an epiphany that revealed what Zen was all about, this being our true nature which lay hidden in us by our deep seated opinions and ideas—one piled upon the other. This may not sound like very much, but in my case the Zen epiphany, I reasoned, was the only key that could unlock the door. There was no other way by which to see what the Zen masters saw, including the Buddha.
At this point Zen becomes very personal and serious. A severe challenge begins to take shape, a challenge that forces one to relinquish everything so that there is nothing to lay hold of. There can be no avenue of escape; no fallback position. There can’t be anymore armchair Zen, either. The severity of the challenge, as we might expect, is relative to how much we choose to resist what Zen is trying to communicate to us which always aims beyond our conceptualizations which only act to stir the mind making the pristine nature of mind always seem absent and satori impossible.