[Site editor's note: The following is an excerpt from the new Disinformation title 50 Things You're Not Supposed To Know: Religion, authored by Daniele Bolelli.]
Most Westerners who become fascinated with Zen Buddhism are intrigued with its reputation as an anti-authoritarian, freedom-loving, individualistic tradition. Books by excellent writers like Alan Watts popularized an image of Zen as a very relaxed, go-with-the-flow type of religion. But even a brief visit to a typical Zen temple is enough to make us painfully aware of the difference between hype and reality. Life in real Zen temples, in fact, is often so structured, regimented and heavily regulated as to quickly dispel the romanticism created by much of the literature about it. Far from being a hippie rendition of Buddhism, Zen discipleship can be demanding and severe.
But sometimes even misguided stereotypes are born from seeds of truth. Enter 15th century Japanese monk Ikkyu Sojun, who was truly as free, wild and allergic to authorities as advertised.… Read the rest