Many of the intellectuals of our time who have gone through the university seem much more steeped in the outlook of technological progress than in the Renaissance, the Reformation or the Age of Enlightenment. Nor are they deeply religious or spiritual. Their various appeals do not come from this cultural past. They have almost no regard for it. This is why they can smash the older elements of modern culture to pieces. Their appeal is to a deluded vision of a new culture. They are not unlike Don Quixote whose great faith and action proved reckless and destructive as when, for example, he saw a great battle in progress when in reality it was a huge flock of sheep which he began to slaughter until the herder knocked him to the ground. We can think of such people as ideologists who Napoleon called “dangerous dreamers.”
But with this comes the dangerous all or nothing demand. Whether the demand seems saintly or something that might lead to the infamous “Red Terror,” it can be marked as extremism and one-sided. I have seen this in the Western treatment of Zen and in Buddhism. Both have their soapbox just waiting for a dangerous dreamer who believes that much of the Buddha’s discourses can be ignored especially when it comes to the proper place of atman or the mysterious body made of spirit (manomayakaya). These dreamers are quite happy to attack Mrs. Rhys Davids, I.B. Horner and many others who don’t see the Buddha as being an atman-denier; who also believe that Buddhism is at bottom, ontological (i.e., the knowing of what is most fundamental).
Our dreamers are completely deluded whose minds are immersed in a fragmented vision of reality. They cannot see it as an interrelated, organic whole which stems from the one, much like the Bodhi-tree the Buddha-to-be sat under. Their world is a collection of unconnected physical objects. There is no unified whole and certainly no need for one in their view. For their world is local and realistic being chiefly that of Darwinian fitness.
As for Zen, specifically, its tradition is all but ignored as a teaching directed to the accomplishment of mystic intuition whereby one awakens/recollects their true nature. Zen becomes no longer dedicated to the training of intuition, which Zen should be understood as. It has been taken over by the dreamers who imagine that they have been transmitted which means they are Buddhas and can do as they please which means Zen becomes psychologized.