A Long and Winding Road: Soto Zen Training in America



Abstract.  This paper seeks to outline the broad parameters of Soto Zen Buddhist training in the North American context. Using his personal experience of training as a case study, the author argues that Zen in America is strongly oriented towards meditation and everyday practice in the world by dedicated lay people, a situation relatively rare in the history of Buddhism. The training of today's Zen teachers calls for unique skills conditioned by modern life in the developed world: pastoral counseling, psychological acuity, communication training, political awareness, and an ability to translate traditional teachings into terms that are relevant. Teacher training still observes traditional Soto Zen ordinations and pathways. But though the ritual forms endure, their meaning continues to evolve and shift according to the different needs and expressions of American Zen.