I was talking about the speech itself, not Sanbo Kyodan as a whole. But I guess as he is the leader of the group what he says is a representative introduction of their view.
Focusing only on the experience of emptiness might look like the common theme of every Zen teaching. But actually such teachings were for the meditation hall mainly and not for every situation and every stage of training.
From reading about it, i gather that this organization was founded, at least partly, with the purpose of taking zen to laymen and liberating it from the monasteries and meditation halls.
It is true that Sanbo Kyodan was the best in spreading Zen to Americans, thanks for those who went to Japan after WW2. It seems very likely that their opennes to foreigners and adaptability to modern views helped achieve that.
Also, it is not so minimalist to focus only on enlightenment. First of all, the idea of transmission is carried on as a validating and governing system. Then there is the koan system, rituals, vows, robes, statues. Although they say it is not Buddhism but their name is Three Treasures, which they take refuge in, they originate their teaching from Shakyamuni and the Zen patriarchs, they teach Buddhist teachings, etc.
I think what Ryoun Roshi said was the PR part. Not that I say there is some secret teaching behind it, but the whole teaching does seem like something not at all far from Japanese Buddhism. This is how the Roshi kept referring again and again to Buddhism. It's like holding up a stick and saying it is not a stick.
I dont think it was PR in the marketing sense
of course like any good teacher he did spend some time establishing rapport with his audience before he got into the meat of the talk. What he was relating was an actual experience and its context and meaning. This experience necessarily has elements and meaning that are not easily conceptualized in language or easily expressed in speech.
True, this view that no matter what you believe in you can do Zen is attracting for those with little or no religious background. At the same time, it creates a very narrow path where only the Zen teacher represents anything valid, because he is the embodiment of enlightenment. Looks very much like the Tantric idea of a guru.
Having practiced zen/chan over the better part of two decades, this has not been my experience.
This makes Zen "user friendly" for the masses, which looks like their goal actually. So it is fine. But it doesn't provide a complete training in Buddhism, for that one would need to look at other groups.
Zen as a tradition has generated a considerable amount of scholarship and academic context and in my experience as a practitioner holds the canon in high regard. It does emphasize practice and experience however. Practice that leads to the same kind of experience that the speaker in my original post in this thread is talking about. Practice that leads to the same kind of experience that the buddha had.
If there is a short way home, why not take it?