Christian Zen is Full of Contradiction

In Christian Zen, author William Johnston relates this conversation he had with his Zen teacher.

“I’m doing what you, I suppose, would call ‘gedo Zen.’”

“Very good! Very good! Many Christians do that. But what precisely do you mean by ‘gedo Zen’?”

“I mean that I am sitting silently in the presence of God without words or thoughts or images or ideas.”

“Your God is everywhere?”

“And you are wrapped around in God?”

“And you experience this?”

“Very good! Very good! Continue this way. Just keep on. And eventually you will find that God will disappear and only Johnston San will remain.”

This remark shocked me. It sounded like a denial of all that I considered sacred, of all that lay at the very center of my so-called Zen. One should not, I suppose, contradict the roshi, but nevertheless I did so. Recalling the teaching of The Cloud that there are mystical moments when self totally disappears and only God remains, I said with a smile, “God will not disappear. But Johnston might well disappear and only God be left.”

“Yes, yes,” he answered smilingly. “It’s the same thing. That is what I mean.”

I thought of this story when someone asked if you had to be atheist to be Zen Buddhist. Instead, I want to let go of theist/atheist, and instead be awake in this reality/world/field-of-love-energy.