In a "Tricycle" magazine article 1, a Jeff Zaleski interview of John Daido Loori Roshi, we find one of the first references to "cowboy Zen:"

Jeff Zaleski: Let's talk a little bit about this monastery and the way that you practice Zen here in these mountains. You're a Japanese lineage, and you're in the middle of the Catskills. You walk around the monastery in Japanese robes. Yet, you don't seem to be involved in what I call American Buddhism. You're really an authentic model of Japanese Zen.

John Daido Loori Roshi: I would disagree. A lot of people think that — except the Japanese. When the Japanese come here and see what we're doing, they call it "cowboy Zen." Many of the forms and trappings that seem exotic or foreign have to do with the fact that this is a monastic setting. If you were to enter a Trappist monastery, you may feel equally estranged by their exotic forms and rigorous discipline.

This may or may not be where the "Cowboy Reiki" tag applied to Dos Rios Reiki comes from.

The use of the word "Cowboy" to indicate that something is not civilized, to denote disapproval, seems to be universal outside of the United States. Being an American, and a bit of a redneck, I tend to view civilization as being highly over-rated, and take great pride in being a cowboy.

1. Public domain text taken from:

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