My new monthly column at Patheos Pagan's Agora blog started May 23rd. I'll be copying posts from there to here after a few weeks, for archival purposes.
Hello! Welcome to The Zen Pagan.
“The what Pagan?” some Pagan readers may be wondering; and perhaps “The Zen what?” may be heard from Patheos Buddhist, if this should leak over there.
But if prior discussions are any guide, some readers are saying “Oh! Yes, that’s it!” For several years I thought that my friend Mike Gurklis and I invented the term “Zen Pagan” in the late 1980s, but I’ve found that others have discovered it independently – including, interestingly enough, John Lennon. So if the term resonates with you in some way, you’re not alone.
There’s much to say about this Zen Paganism: from how the Buddha obtained enlightenment while sitting under a tree and calling on the Earth to bear him witness, to the Greco-Buddhist culture that arose in Gandhara in the wake of the conquerors Alexander and Ashoka and gave us the first Buddha statues (styled after images of the Greek pantheon), to how Aleister Crowley’s roommate was one the first Westerners to become a Buddhist monk, on up through Mr. Lennon’s identification as a Zen Pagan and what it all suggests to us going forward. We’ll be investigating such topics in future episodes, but today I’d like to offer an introduction by telling you how I found a Buddhist deity of the Earth…or he/she (it’s complicated) found me.
Friends, meet Jizō, the Bodhisattva of the Earth.