It’s just my opinion but there is too much of what I shall call “consensus knowledge” going around, otherwise known as truth by consensus. It is really—let’s be honest—fake or pseudo knowledge. For example, something is true because a majority of scientists say it is true without any real empirical verification relying instead upon theoretical speculations which really amounts to an elaborate persuasion argument. A good example of this is the sun generates its energy by nuclear fusion or the human brain creates consciousness. Before that, it was the earth is the center of the universe—a settled theory at the time.
I could go on and on giving examples of knowledge by way of consensus. The point is there is too much of it from science to history (don’t even get me going on history)—and people really get pissed at you when you point out the weakness of knowledge by consensus or in some examples, knowledge by the mob as was the case, by the way, with the French Reign of Terror which happened somewhere around the 1790s. The mob was incited by fake news and reports about Louis XVI who was truly a great monarch—perhaps France’s Ashoka, Ashoka being a great and compassionate Indian emperor the Maurya Dynasty.
I see consensus knowledge sneaking its way into Zen Buddhism and Buddhism in general. I see Buddhist writers like Stephen Batchelor trying to frame a consensus derived Buddhism (what the majority of Westerners want to believe Buddhism teaches). The only problem is that this consensus Buddhism is not grounded upon the discourses of the Buddha. It is almost like providing a Cliff Notes account of Mark Twain’s, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, without Jim.
In Zen, a consensus that Zen has some connection with Daoism has taken hold of the public mind. They will not let it go. This can lead to the phenomenon in which Zen and Buddhism are gradually separated. They might drag in ideas such as, Zen shows the influence of Daoism or Zen was a reaction to Mahayana Buddhism. This is meant to shift the religious intent of Zen Buddhism, trying to turn its Buddhist roots into an expression of Daoism with Buddhism mixed in, but only in an external way (I have in mind the book, The Tao of Zen). This tactic, I hate to say, is something like stripping Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christianity of all of its saints (including their writings and icons) and having a Pat Robertson style of Christianity. Sorry, but I see Zen being much closer to the work (śāstra), Awakening of Faith in the Mahāyāna, than the Dao De Jing attributed to Laozi 老子.
When you tally up the number of Mahayana sutra references Zen masters have made, not to mention paraphrases from Mahayana sutras, one can only conclude that Zen is Mahayana Buddhism made simple for the Chinese public by very skilled Zen masters who knew their Mahayana Buddhist canon. The consensus knowledge that Zen is just Daoism in Buddhist robes is flat wrong.
If those who follow this blog were to go around and preach that Buddhism teaches the personal awakening to the unconditioned, would this simple teaching really be Buddhism? The answer is, yes it would! which is why it could take on the simple shape of Zen, spreading from China, to Korea and Japan never losing much of this elegant simplicity. Again, the consensus knowledge that the roots of Zen are Daoist is flat wrong.