I’ve never felt learned enough to decide on or declare adherence to any particular Buddhist tradition, but I’ve always gravitated toward Zen.

I try not to cling to that, because I suspect of myself — and of Western Buddhists writ large, if I’m being honest — that I’m merely experiencing some aesthetic preference rather than a legitimate philosophical one.

I think that skepticism and concern for cultural appropriation is healthy. Still, the closer I get to heart of Zen, the more true it sounds:

Bodhidharma was the first to introduce the specific teachings that defined the Zen school. Much of his renown comes from a famous four-line teaching attributed to him:

A special transmission outside the scriptures,
Not depending on words and letters;
Directly pointing to the mind,
Seeing into one’s true nature and attaining buddhahood.

If those four lines are, as this post by Haleigh Atwood says, “the taproot of Zen,” I get why it calls to me. It’s the counterweight to my Jewish side. I can’t incorporate another tradition that depends utterly on the authority of scholarly texts. But “not depending on words and letters”? I can get into that for sure.

⤳ “Who Was Bodhidharma?” on Lion’s Roar