Quotes from Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind
What intrigues me most about Shunryu Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind
is the different approach to Zen. Most literature I've read on Zen seems to
rely heavily on koans and symbolic syllogisms based on Japanese culture… a
background that I'm not familiar with.
You may have heard things like a student asking a question like,
"What is Buddha?" and the teacher (Dongshan in this case) says,
"Three pounds of flax". What?
But Suzuki's approach is to teach Zen from direct, physical experiences.
While I'd hate to see it in a yellow "Dummies" book, it does seem to be more
He states, "Zen practice is the direct expression of our true nature." and
elsewhere he clarifies this by saying that "You do not meditate to gain
enlightenment, you meditate because you are enlightened." The shift here is
that enlightenment (that illusive goal of Zen) is not really the goal at all.
It is just our true nature, and we just need to be true to that nature.
OK, enough of an introduction, let's get on to the quote…
When we inhale, the air comes into the inner world. When we
exhale, the air goes out to the outer world. We say "inner world" or "outer
world" but actually there is just one whole world… The air comes in and
goes out like someone passing through a swinging door. If you think, "I
breathe," the "I" is extra. There is no you to say "I."
Our culture and our perspective is very concerned with dividing, labeling
and valuing everything we encounter. The Buddhist view is that these things
are really just a part of us.
I recently read a story about a person who laid on her
bed quietly with her eyes closed and tried to figure out the exact point
where her skin ended and the air began. She couldn't do it. While we are
aware of and can feel our bodies, our bodies aren't like cars with hard
skins. Look at it this way, a spec of dust gets inhaled … is it inside my
body? Yes, but not really as it is just in the space within my throat.
The membrane between us and the world is thin.
And let's not get into the fact that the stuff that makes me up is the same
stuff that makes up everything around me. The carbon in my fingers are the
same as the carbon in the desk they rest upon. The DNA that makes me up is
almost the same as the tree that supplied the wood for this desk. And let's
not forget that the matter that makes me up is not the same matter I
started out with. While we shed our skins daily, we shed every cell in our
body after just a few years. So, what am I really?
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Another quote (mentioned from Chris Corrigan):
When you have something in your consciousness you do not have
perfect composure. The best way towards perfect composure is to forget
everything. Then your mind is calm and it is wide and clear enough to see
and feel things as they are without any effort. The best way to find
perfect composure is not to retain any idea of things, whatever they may
be-- to forget all about them and not to leave any trace or shadow of
Reminds me of a line I heard attributed to Thelonious Monk years ago. When
asked about his piano technique, Monk said "it's easy. First you learn your
technique, then you forget it."