So, periodically I fuss at my students for thinking that reading and learning about music is somehow equivalent to practicing the skills of making music. From this, some of them then go too far and assume that I think that the books are not useful. I try to stress that knowing about music will help their development as long as they see it as supplemental knowledge to their actual music making.
Is this the same in Zen?
The written word, I find anyway, to be nice supplement to the practice of zazen. Books, sutras, music, the words on this site, are all ways that help my motivation and understanding when it comes to practicing. I do not, however, think that books do anything that could ever replace the central place of zazen in my practice. I'd be interested in hearing what others feel about the role of study in Zen practice.
I think I read that in spite of a reputation of being non-bookish, Zen teachers have written more words about practice than any other Buddhist tradition. Maybe that's not true, I don't know, but a quick look at the Shobogenzo reveals that the primary Soto teacher was not anti-book. I think there is always a danger of opposite extremes in this world, and books are no exception. Knowledge about music is not the same as experiential knowledge of music. Knowledge about Zen is not the same as experiential knowledge of Zen either. The trick, in my opinion, is to find the middle way between ignoring the beautiful written teachings that so many Zen teachers have shared and thinking that they are what we should be focused on. So, I sit; I read; I work; I sleep; I eat; I . . . they are all part of my practice. But I make a constant effort to not mistake the finger for the moon.