There are three major differences between the traditional Zen monastic training and those who practice in the West. The vast majority of those who practice in the West are lay people; there are a large number of women who practice and hold positions of leadership; and there is more interest in emotional and psychological approaches to meditation.
We are integrating these facets into our approach to teaching Zen and have moved in the direction of westernizing the practice. Reading Dr. Lenz, we have found inspiration to expand our teaching in new ways that were not part of our training. Dr. Lenz has helped make Zen more accessible to a wider portion of the population, including non-Buddhists as well as committed Buddhists.
First of all, the idea of bringing Zen to the laity goes at least back to Hakuin (and even before if you consider Ikkyu Sojun). This trend picked up momentum in Japan in the Meiji era, led, among others, by my ancestors Imakita Kosen, Soyen Shaku, and Tetsuo Sokatsu. Presumably the bit in that link about no meals except those comprising 3 bowls of vegetables and sake included water as well and wasn't to be the case when folks were out and about away from the Zendo. At any rate, it's not that way in my sangha today, and I digress.
But more importantly, it was understood that there should be more lay people practicing Zen, this was a purposefully directed way in which to encourage Zen practice in the laity, and these traditions continue even today in Japan. While it is true beyond doubt that the vast majority of Japanese do not practice Zen Buddhism in Japan, the fact of the matter is, there are many temples throughout Japan that provide the opportunity for laity to study Zen Buddhism. In fact, three are two Ryobo Zen An sanghas open to lay practice and one thing on my agenda is to ask my teacher about that. I have met Japanese lay practitioners. There are differences between Japanese culture and practice of Zen Buddhism and the American practice, and a large amount of it I'd say is that they have generally less New Agey corruption and psychobabble in it and a better understanding of Japanese and Chinese culture, at least in the Rinzai school. While there may be more Zen clergy in Japan, and the bulk of their tasks is funerals and related tasks, the likelihood is that as a proportion of the general population the amount of lay Zen students in Japan (per say, 100K people) is probably at least the same if not greater than it is in the United States. China's a different story, and it remains to be seen how China will play out in this, but places like the "Lin Ji Style Zen Temple" in Liaoning province have clearly been built to facilitate lay practice at the temple.
That's my first point. My second point is that the idea that the idea that one should not have a "successful" (I always thought that was an empty word) career and not have a deep religious practice has never, to my knowledge, been part of the Buddhist tradition. Going back to the earliest Buddhist writings it is clear that the directions of the Buddha were that people should perform their tasks well. Hakuin alluded to all work as being important, and work practice being more important than seated practice (although he never said seated practice wasn't essential, and it was clear he implied it was essential). These views were echoed by Shosan Suzuki earlier as well. And I shouldn't need to mention that the calligraphy industries (that is the right word) that grew up in Hanzhou and Nara are the direct result of Buddhist monks. Clearly they didn't keep the sumi (墨絵) and paper business solely in the hands of the monks, not in the Kansai area and not when there was money to be made. OK, maybe Nara wasn't ever exactly like Osaka (though I could relate to you stories about my times in Nara while while we quaff sake in an izakaya joint), and again I digress. But then again, along with that grew the tradition of ”wabisabi” （詫び寂び） ｏｒ ”humble simplicity" as an esthetic to be reached. Humble simplicity is a good esthetic to use in one's business practices - though I admit that is a major shortcoming of yours truly. (There's a strange loop in there if you look for it, I suspect.)
Presumably when Wick and Merzel talk about "Westerninzing" Buddhist practice they're not talking about Lenz's reputed issues with women. (Barbara O'Brien where are you on that issue?) Instead, they're alluding to this "career" thing. You can see Lenz discussing his "Western" approach to "Buddhism" here, and as a bonus it includes a bizarre bit of narcissistic denial about all the bad people who have made bad allegations against him.
Your practice is precisely where you find it. Dogen said, "When you find yourself where you are, there is practice, actualizing the fundamental point." (Heh, didn't think I could quote Dogen, did ya?) This practice must above all be ethical, which means that you shouldn't chase after wealth for the sake of owning a Lexus (full disclosure: we own one; mostly because of my wife's activities) but for the sake of all beings and the transcendence of dukkha and suffering.
Now that means you might have a "great career" or you might be stuck outside of middle management for decades or you might make a lot of money or you might get laid off tomorrow and have to accept a 30% pay cut in this wretched economy. That should not be the point of your practice. The point of your practice is right in front of you. And right in front of you there is a path to be practiced, including but not limited to right speech, right intention, right livelihood, right effort, ...oh, heck all of 'em. When they are considered carefully and constantly practiced, I'd say it kind makes Lenz's version of a "career success" seem like a cheap and poorly made knock-off of what might actually be possible and what can be realized in life.
Practice where you find it requires mindfulness, I in the time I spent watching the Lenz blather above, I didn't hear very much about mindfulness.
Finally, I have one more point to make. It's about
That is unfortunately the schtick Genpo Merzel has been using as well when he touts things like the "rarity" of an opportunity to work with a "real" Zen Master. That a bit too similar to Lenz, I'm afraid.
Questions? Comments? Am I still being too hard on Bernie Glassman and Genpo Merzel and the others who've taken money from the Lenz Foundation and yet still give the patina or approval as Buddhists on Lenz's "intellectual property?"