Stop selling Zen!

Zen is an austere form of Buddhism. Unfortunately, its image has been tarred by crude commercialism.

You can buy Zen shampoo, Zen underwear, Zen jewellery and even Zen cat litter.

This has been created so that your pet can poop onto little white stones which resemble those used in a traditional Zen garden. To make them seem more Oriental, the stones have been infused with the aroma of the lotus, a flower which in Buddhism represents purity.

Most people regard Zen as a symbol of Japan. 

In an excellent article for the Japan Times, Michael Hoffman wrote that “almost any art one thinks of that is characteristically Japanese – haiku poetry, noh drama, ink painting, flower arranging, tea ceremony, swordsmanship and war (if they are properly classed as arts), germinated and flowered directly under Zen influence.”

The roots of Zen lie in Buddhism’s journey from India to China. Chinese masters taught their Japanese disciples how to sit cross-legged upon the floor and meditate. 

In later years, monks complained that Japan’s religious establishment was corrupted by greed. “We should feel sorry for this remote little country,” complained the monk Dogen (1200-53) from Kyoto.

I believe we need to sit quietly and contemplate the wise words of the ancient masters. They urged us to empty our minds of worldly thoughts and connect deeply with the concepts of intransigence and insignificance.

Zen’s legacy needs to be protected from commercialism. Let us free our shelves of tat and reconnect with the holy temples and timeless mysteries. 

That way, the essential spirit of Zen will once again have meaning for us. It is the way of peace.

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