If I were asked to characterize myself I would say that I am an American mystic. I don’t have a scholarly interest in Buddhism or Zen which tends to dwell on the small, fine details in a attempt to get to the big picture or somewhere close. This is somewhat like believing the more perfect we can make the translation relative to the translator’s view the closer we will get to the truth of what the text is really trying to say.
For me, in my mid-twenties, it became clear that Buddhism, including Zen, rested on a unique mystical experience—I was certain of it. Achieving this mystical experience was critical especially in the study of Zen. The academic world could not get near it. Nor could the best translations bring a person this experience. One of course one could fake this mystical experience or just presume they have had it at some point in the example of the Lotus Sutra.
“Also, Shariputra, these monks and nuns say they have already attained arhathood, that this is their last birth, that they have attained ultimate nirvana, and so they do not have the further aspiration to seek unexcelled, perfect awakening. You should know that these are all highly presumptuous people.”
Others might feel emboldened to dismiss awakening altogether like Dogen who said:
"Seeing the mind and seeing the nature is the animated activity of non-Buddhists." (Sansuigyo, SBGZ, vol 1, p. 219, BDK Edition).
Still, no one can change the fact that the huge bulk of Zen literature rests upon a special kind of mystical experience which is what makes Zen so unique and attractive.
In my own case, I was obsessed with seeing my “pure Mind” which I was convinced was to be found within my own noggin. Luckily for me I didn’t stop until I saw it. From that intuition and seven years later I had a profound mystical experience with Buddhas, something right out of the Lankavata Sutra called the “light of Mahayana”(mahāyana-prabhāsa) which was responsible for putting me where I am today, especially, this blog.
America has had it share of mystics such as Walter Russell. I can also appreciate the fact that Americans, as a general rule, care more about material things than spiritual. Maybe when he was still alive Walter Russell was somewhat popular. But today, very few have heard of him because very few care about spirit or God anymore (Russell said “God is the invisible, motionless, sexless, undivided, and unconditioned white Magnetic Light of Mind”).
I cannot change my stripes. I was born to become a mystic which is an onerous task given that I have to contend with people who are skeptical of the place of mysticism. This probably implies that I don't get along with academic types. Despite this, I still continue.