Questioner (Q): Spiritual way tends to be more direct and I feel Zen-Buddhism actually misleads from the direct path.
Acharya Prashant (AP): Zen never imposes any rule. Or does it? Is that your question that Zen imposes rule?
AP: What kind of rules?
Q: Rules of the way of living, thinking.
AP: Zen is the simplest, purest, and most direct way of living. Almost living like a plant, living like winds, and stones and animals. So, that could be said about many other traditional practices but not at all about Zen.
If you go to a Zen practitioner and ask, “What rules do you follow?” He will have very few rules to tell you. Maybe he will say, “When I sit down for meditation, I face the wall” or if he has picked up a few practices from here and there, he will talk about them, but nothing very elaborate.
From where did you pick this idea, that Zen involves a bundle of rules? Have you met practitioners?
Q: No, I just went through one of the books and perceived that living by Zen means living in a special way.
AP: No, no. In fact, the way of Zen is called the non-way; which means that we are already accustomed to living in certain ways and Zen means that we realize—’why certain ways attract us?’ First of all, we see, that what we call as a natural way of life is, in fact, a cultivated way - usually, what we call as our natural self is not at all natural, it is borrowed, conditioned, and artificial. Zen is about seeing that. And once you have seen that, then very honestly you admit it and move on—That’s Zen. You see that you have been carrying a baggage, a load; you bow down to the fact, you acknowledge it, and without trying for correction, you move on—That’s Zen.
Q: Okay. But what is the way to come to that point?
AP: Honest observation; which is in any case happening. Observation is in any case happening. So, then all that boils down to the word 'honesty'. Zen is all about inner honesty. Certain disciplines are there but they are not very elaborate disciplines. In fact, they are also quite practical. Certain teachers build one particular method and promote it, others, raise some other methods and advocate them. But, the essence of Zen is far beyond methods.
In fact, Zen is the final flowering of all religious ascension. Religion and spirituality keep rising and rising. And its final flowering is the silence of Zen. Zen is what the Upanishads came at, the Buddha hinted at. From all of that, what you finally get is Zen. If by any chance you come across a form of Zen that is very ritual-oriented or practice-centric, then you can reject that as not being Zen. Then, you can simply say that practitioner does not know Zen and is misinterpreting it.