Jeff Shore leads Zen retreats throughout North America and Europe, recently at the Montreal Zen Center where I practiced for a long time. He is also the sole non-Japanese full-time professor at Hanazono University in Kyoto, the only Rinzai University in the world. He tells me that he teaches what he calls “Blue-eyed Zen.” Formal Zen training in Japan is arduous, and many of the students at the university are bewildered by why Americans and Europeans have any interest in it.
“Westerners, when we’re looking at Zen,” he says, “we’re looking at it in a very peculiar way. Whereas for the average Japanese priest, who – for the last hundred years could be married and have a son, and then his son would enter the monastery whether he wanted to or not – it’s a very different system. And a lot of them have a chip on their shoulder. They don’t want to be a priest, but they have to be. And then here’s people like us coming half way around the world. We’re not even going to become priests; we’re not going to have a temple. And yet we’re putting ourselves through this. Why? So that’s how I try to interest the students, because the Japanese students are not interested.”
To make sure I understand what he’s saying, I paraphrase him: “So you’re teaching Japanese students how westerners see Zen?”
“More or less, yes. What do we see that they don’t? Otherwise they’d just fall asleep in class.”