Much of what I term as “pop Zen” is more like making a daisy-chain than chasing the White Rabbit (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) which leads us to the inner world of self-deception which has to be transcended if we are to see, first hand, ultimate reality (this is kensho). Picking our daisies is the external life of conditionality which goes against nirvana (the unconditioned). It can be about joining a Zen or Dharma center, listening to a lecture by a teacher and doing some zazen. It’s all quite boring and gets us no place in the final analysis.
If this is as far as some people wish to go—fine. My advice is don’t go any further. But making daisy-chains should not be the norm. It’s all about following that White Rabbit down the rabbit-hole. This is not only a spiritual adventure but a process of waking up from a dream by realizing what it is composed of. Before awakening, I was the dream-maker: a builder of a world of dreams who became enchanted and desired more dreams. But seeing, precisely, what all these dreams are fashioned from ends enchantment.
Pop Zen is less about seeing ultimate reality and more about trying to have our cake and eat it too. Such Buddhists are still very much enchanted by the illusions which surround and bind them to this world, even though they sit in zazen believing to have escaped just a little. A Zen community can just become an echo chamber. An enclosed system of people making daisy-chains instead of following the White Rabbit down his hole. Nobody in such an enclosed system benefits, however. It is like one hand is on the doorknob trying to open the door while the other is pushing against it.