There is an obvious risk in attempting to predict the future of anything, especially in the USA, and let alone the future of Zen. The following is the text of a “Ted” style talk I was invited to give at the Soto Zen Buddhist Association (SZBA) the first week in October, at Great Vow Monastery in Clatskanie, Oregon. The text has been embellished with more detail than the talk itself, which was limited to ten minutes.
Because we were allotted such a brief time for presentation, my approach was to talk fast, in order to cover the ground that I felt necessary to make my point. My apologies to those who were not able the glean much from the presentation; this written recap is my attempt to provide the information in a more laid-back, digestible form. Those who attended the breakout session the next day added important questions and opened up other dimensions for serious consideration. It is apparent that all recognize this set of lay practice issues as critical to the future of Zen in the USA.
The fact that several other presenters were holding breakout sessions at the same time is a perfect and poignant illustration of the situation in which Zen finds itself today. Each person in the audience would have to choose to attend only one of the sessions, one which may have turned out to be the least important to them. Millions of people in this culture are making similar choices, every day, to attend something other than Zen. And whatever the attraction or necessity, it will probably turn out to be a lot less important than Zen, at least in the long run.