I don't believe I need salvation. Neither does Zen Buddhism. This is one reason, among many, I've been a fan of Zen since my college years.
A few days ago I started re-reading Hubert Benoit's marvelous book, The Supreme Doctrine: Psychological Studies in Zen Thought.
I've written lots of blog posts about the book, which I've read about a half dozen times. Back in 2005 I wrote a post, "'The Supreme Doctrine,' thirty-six years overdue."
Since this is 2022, the book I couldn't bear to return to the San Jose Public Library is now 53 years overdue. If I believed in reincarnation, I'd worry about being reborn as a librarian tasked with fining people who don't return library materials.
Benoit devotes a short chapter, three pages, to The Idolatry of 'Salvation.' Excerpt:
In many 'spiritual' systems, religious or otherwise, man has the 'duty' of achieving his 'salvation'; he denies all value to that which is temporal and concentrates all the reality imaginable on the 'salvation.'
It is evident, however, that there is again here a form of idolatry, since realisation, seen thus as something which excludes other things, is then only one thing among others, limited and formal, and that it is regarded at once as alone 'sacred' and immeasurably superior to all the rest.
All the determining, enslaving reality which man attributed to this or that 'temporal' enterprise is crystallised now on the enterprise of 'salvation', and this enterprise becomes the most determining, the most enslaving, that can be imagined.
Since realisation signifies liberation one arrives at the absurd paradox that man is subjected to the coercive duty to be free. Man's distress is concentrated then on the question of his salvation; he trembles at the thought that he may die without having attained his deliverance.
Such a grave error of understanding necessarily entails anxiety, inner agitation, a feeling of unworthiness, an egotistical crispation on oneself-as-a-distinct-being, that is to say, it prevents inner pacification, reconciliation with oneself, disinterestedness toward oneself-as-a-distinct-being, the diminution of emotion -- in short all the inner atmosphere of relaxation which governs the release of satori.
In my current re-reading of The Supreme Doctrine, I noted Benoit's mention of a book by D.T. Suzuki, a noted Zen practitioner, called The Zen Doctrine of No-Mind. I ordered it from Amazon and just started reading it.
Suzuki's book is about the teachings of Hui-neng, a famous Zen master (638-713). Hui-neng is noted for engaging in a Zen contest of sorts between himself and another Zen practitioner, Shen-hsiu. The disagreement between them is key to understanding the two main schools of Chinese Zen, southern and northern.
The southern school, which traces its lineage to Hui-neng, believes in sudden realization, while the northern school, which traces its lineage to Shen-hsiu, believes in gradual realization. Neither is akin to religious salvation, but Hui-neng is less salvation'y than Shen-hsiu, as can be seen in the words each presented to the Fifth Patriarch.
This body is the Bodhi-tree.
The mind is like a mirror bright;
Take heed to keep it always clean
And let not dust collect upon it.
Hui-neng responded with what amounted to a Zen smackdown.
There is no Bodhi-tree,
Nor stand of mirror bright.
Since all is void,
Where can the dust alight?
There are as many kinds of binding as there are kinds of clinging. When we cling to purity we thereby make a form of it, and we are purity-bound.
For the same reason, when we cling to or abide with emptiness, we are emptiness-bound; when we abide with Dhyana or tranquilization, we are Dhyana-bound.
However excellent are the merits of these spiritual exercises, they inevitably lead us to a state of bondage in one way or another. In this there is no emancipation.
The whole system of Zen discipline may thus be said to be nothing but a series of attempts to set us absolutely free from all forms of bondage.
Even when we talk of 'seeing into one's self-nature', this seeing has also a binding effect on us if it is construed as having something in it specifically set up; that is, if the seeing is a specific state of consciousness. For this is the 'binding'.
...The seeing is the result of his having nothing to stand upon. Hui-neng is thus in one way looked upon as the father of Chinese Zen.