Zen is not a religion, although it most closely follows Buddhist principles.
It is not a religion in the sense that one cannot claim to be a “zennist”. There is no formal doctrine of zen, nor is there a zen priesthood. Neither does one worship zen gods, zen masters or zen spirits.
Rather zen is an approach to life — a way of seeing — of looking beyond the illusions created by the mind, of awakening to reality, of enlightenment. And this is achieved not by a strict adherence to any dogma or set of rules, but simply by being increasingly alert and aware of one’s thoughts, feelings and actions. The individual seeks that inner center that is unchanging and undisturbed, capable of seeing life as a mysterious and great adventure, a grand theater, a delightful journey that has no other purpose than to enjoy and celebrate each step (or misstep) along the path.
Zen is not about emulating a messiah or a buddha. It is about becoming a buddha. It is about the full flowering of the love and compassion within all of us.