From an blog article by Tricycle Magazine writer Dr. Jeff Wilson
Sep. 27, 2007 Addressing Comments From the Meditation Thread
Here is the original article he mentions. "Dec. 30, 2006 Meditation: a Rare Practice"At the end of last year I wrote a post detailing the fact that meditation is far from a common or universal practice in Buddhism; indeed, meditating Buddhists are well in the minority. Dogen is a fascinating character, one of my favorites. I've been exploring Dogen's thought longer than any other Buddhist master I admire His was anything but a "meditation only" approach, as some people seem to imply. In the USA, Soto Zen converts (as opposed to Japanese-Americans) do often meditate. But in Japan where Soto Zen is strong, ordinary practitioners rarely meditateócertainly their meditation participation is nowhere near the frequency of prayer among Christians. It isn't that you can't find Soto Zen practitioners that meditate, it's just that it is very uncommon among the laity and hardly frequent among the clergy as well. This is not something that Soto Shu has a gripe about--if you read their Japanese publications for the laity you find that they typically advocate morality and uprightness, rather than significant amounts of meditation practice. Nor is this a secret in Japan--ask any Japanese monk and he'll readily tell you that for most of his peers zazen isn't something they do a lot of every day.
In this article he quotes Duncan Ryuken Williams who states:Soto, the school of Suzuki and the largest form of Zen in Japan, is only adamant about zazen in English-language publications put out for the consumption of Westerners who love meditation. In Japan, where virtually all Soto Zen practitioners live, Soto Shu emphasizes moral behavior, respect of elders, charity, and chanting in front of the home altar. Meditation is not a central practice and is generally only performed by a minority of the clergy, who are themselves a very small minority of members.
I found both articles interesting with a bit of curiosity in so far as it relates to US Zen Buddhism in comparison to Japan. Far for me to question someone who has in depth study of East Asian Religion & teaching Buddhism, but I do find that he may be over simplifying the notion that in the US non-Asian Buddhists over emphasize meditation or zazen in comparison to their Japenese counterparts. I just don't see it that way. I do think that US Buddhists see that Buddhism is just more than just meditation. Am I wrong in this pov of Dr. Wilson?When examined from this perspective, the Zen priest's main activities, which typically were praying for rain, healing the sick, or performing exorcistic and funerary rites, illuminate a different side of Zen. . . the vast majority of ordinary Soto Zen monks and laypeople never practiced Zen meditation, never engaged in iconoclastic acts of the Ch'an/Zen masters (as described in hagiographical literature), never solved koans, never raked Zen gardens, never sought mystical meditative states, and never read Dogen's writings.