• Akiko

Recent ZEN 禅 boom is from abroad?!


Last year and this year's April, I had an honor to tour guide about 30 people from Upaya Zen Center to Kasuga Grand Shrine in Nara. (Roshi Joan Halifax was leading them many sacred sites on their Japan tour).

Until then, I did not really know how Zen meditation is getting popularity outside of Japan, so it was quite shocking to realize so many people in the US are finding inner peace, inner truth through the philosophy of Zen and its meditation method.

I even heard that some foreign tourists come to Japan, thinking/believing that most Japanese are ZEN buddhists. Well, that is far from the truth. First of all, Japanese Buddhism has developed into many schools or sects, and each has different origin and teaching, and Zen Buddhism is just one of them. Telling you the truth, among my friends I don't know anyone who is into Zen, who actually studies or practices Zen meditation.

For myself, I have meditation experiences through a method of "Vipassana meditation", etc. I did 3 times of 10- days course at a meditation center in Kyoto. The course is programed well so that any participants will get some good result from meditation. That was more than 15 years ago, and back then, Zen meditation was not popular at all.. Amazingly, the meditation center was, fully run by donations and volunteers. including accommodations, vegetarian meals. By who? By the old meditation students, or those who got benefit from the result of meditation.

Going back to the original story of Zen, it is obvious that recent trend of Zen is from abroad.. I remember watching a Japanese movie titled "ZEN 禅”, a life story about the founder of Soto Zen master Dogen 道元, in Thailand, back in 2013. My close friends, Brazilian and Mongolian couple had the movie, and they were a long-time practitioner of meditation.

As an another proof, just this spring, I had chances to be an assistant guide for 3 group of tourists from US and Canada; "National Geographic Expeditions". One of the itenary of their Kyoto travel was...."Zen meditation Experience". Well, before this, they spent 1 day in Asuka (Nara), and 4 days in ancient trail of Kumano Kodo. Some of the guests' main interest were Japanese spirituality.

I had a privilege to meet a real Japanese Zen master at Nanzen-ji meditation center. He was a great man.... who was talking wisdom based on his direct experiences.

There are many famous successful businessmen and celebrities who do meditate regularly or studied Zen philosophy. One of them is the founder of Apple, Steve Jobs.

According to an article from Business Insider.com, we can see how Zen has felped his career.

"Here's How Zen Meditation Changed Steve Jobs' Life And Sparked A Design Revolution" (by Business insider .com) -----------------------------------------------------

Zen Buddhism, and the practice of meditation it encouraged, were shaping Jobs' understanding of his own mental processes.

"If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is," Jobs told Isaacson. "If you try to calm it, it only makes things worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there's room to hear more subtle things — that's when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before. It's a discipline; you have to practice it."

Jobs felt such resonance with Zen that he considered moving to Japan to deepen his practice. But Otogawa told him he had work to do in California.

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