The study of Dogen’s writings are often hindered by a number of widespread erroneous views, misunderstandings, and simplistic notions about Zen generally and Dogen’s teachings specifically. Moreover, such distortions have marginalized Zen to the level of irrelevancy for many; thus barring potential practitioners from the liberation of Zen enlightenment. Ten of the top such distortions include:
That Zen advocates a distrust of written or verbal teachings.
That Zen denigrates intellectual or conceptual endeavors.
That Zen advocates detachment.
That zazen only and always should be understood by its literal meaning (“sitting meditation”).
That Dogen advocated sitting meditation to the exclusion of other practices.
That Dogen did not teach (or was opposed to) koan introspection.
That Zen is something ineffable, mysterious, esoteric, complicated, or difficult to understand.
That koans are puzzles, paradoxes, riddles, or devices used to frustrate the intellect.
That koans are irrational, or are anything other than legitimate literary idioms.
That Zen meditation is trance-like, or otherwise isolates one from their surroundings.
The widespread acceptance of such simplistic and/or aberrant views has not only hindered effective study and practice, it has contributed to many of the high profile scandals of western “Zen” communities, and thus caused many thinking people to dismiss modern Zen as nothing more than another whacked out cult.