Is Zen a Religion?
Not for us.
Zen and other branches of Buddhism have ceremonies which sometimes give the appearance of a religion. The rituals and robes we've all seen though, are cultural in origin and are reflective of the old styles of the countries through which Buddhism has evolved for 2500 years, like India, China, Japan, and many others.
These things are now almost exclusively part of the monastic and seminary systems, where people go to become teachers, just like in western seminaries. And just like in western seminaries, monks sometimes wear religious attire.
At our meetings, we don't wear religious attire and we don't conduct services or have an altar. We simply learn about Zen Buddhist teachings and discuss ways to apply these lessons to our everyday lives.
It should also be pointed out that Buddhists don't worship the Buddha and he is not recognized as a God or deity.
While we never ask, we assume that most of our members have been brought up in and still consider themselves members of various faiths. No problem, because Zen is compatible.
We honor the Buddha by the recognition, study, and application of his discoveries and contributions to the world, the way other great and wise people of the past are honored.
Think of All Rivers Zen Study Group as an interest group, like a book club, where we study, learn, and discuss (lots of discussion!) the principles and practices that lead to living a Zen life in peace, calm, and harmony with our relations, our communities, and the world at large.
And nobody will try to convert you into anything but your best self.