“Other religions thus far in history are based on the idea of a self, the idea that there exists an entity call the self. Buddhism says there is no self…My self is my body, my mind, my memory, my history, my experience. But those are aggregates in the same way that walls, ceiling, floor, doors, windows are aggregates that describe a room. They don’t address the question of what is ‘selfness’ itself, what is ‘roomness’ itself…The self is an idea. It is in a constant state of change.”
In the Oxford Bodleian library, one of the oldest libraries in Europe and a reserve library for the UK with a copy of every book published there, there are a series of doors with titles painted over them. They refer to the traditional seven subjects studied in the seven year Liberal Arts degree in Medieval England. One started with grammar, rhetoric, and logic in the first three years, and then moved to arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy in the final four. As you progressed, you could enter more of the doors.
John Daido Loori has attempted to do much the same with at the Buddhist Zen Mountain Monastery, hoping to fuse Western and Eastern Traditions in order to make Buddhism appealing and accessible to Americans. His eight gates are meditation, teacher-student relationship, academic study, liturgy, precepts, art practice, body practice, and work practice. Students at all levels study material from each of the gates, and are expected to progress in each of them as they pursue
Loori has self-consciously attempted to adapt his curriculum to the West, and for that reason I’m not sure this is the place to start if you want to read about Buddhism: I got a lot more about of Aitken’s Taking the Path of Zen. It is, however, an interesting study of how Zen practices have adapted in the US. Given that Zen is not just about climbing the mountain of enlightenment, but also descending the other side and reengaging with the world, there is perhaps justification for adapting Zen practice to the cultures in which it operates.