Real Zen is not about Zen

Real Zen is not about Zen.


When Zen is about Zen, it’s about the identity of Zen. It’s about the tradition, rituals, specific practices, and so on. There is nothing wrong in this but it’s good to be honest about it. There is a lot of value in Zen, and when Zen is about Zen, this can be passed on to new generations.


Real Zen is not about Zen. It’s about the exploration. It’s about finding what we are and exploring how to live from it. The essence of this is inherent in who and what we are, and in reality, and it’s not dependent on any traditions.

Many traditions have insights and pointers for exploring this, and no tradition has any monopoly on it. And if we are too identified with a particular tradition and its particular approach, we may miss out on practices and pointers that could be very valuable to us.


The seed of this article came from a brief comment I made about Zen on a friend’s social media post, so I wrote it about Zen. But this is far more universal. This is about spiritual or awakening traditions in general.

They each contain valuable pointers, practices, guidelines, and insights.

Since they are traditions, their main priority is inevitably to maintain themselves. In practice, this means that for many within a trdtiion, they will set their tradition on part with or sometimes above what the tradition is explicitly about or initially was about.

And it means that if we are sincere about finding what we are and living from it, we lose out on valuable pointers, guidelines, and practices if we stay too rigidly within the tradition for too long.


  • Zen is not about Zen
    • When Zen is about Zen
      • the tradition, rituals, hierarchy etc.
    • When Zen is not about Zen
      • when it’s focused on exploration, finding for ourselves,
      • is by necessity free of the imagined boundaries of traditions
    • More universal
      • any tradition, often about preserving the tradition more than what the tradition explicitly is about or initially was about
      • as soon as tradition, is mostly by necessity about preserving itself

It’s not about Zen

  • isn’t that real Zen? To be into the exploration and be meh about Zen? After all, it’s not about Zen 
  • Zen is a vehicle, not what it is about 

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