Sunday, September 30, 2012

Book: Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryi Suzuki

"Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" was a recent, random purchase from charity shop just up the road. As a somebody who doesn't practice meditation, I expected to find a useful introduction into the world of Zen practice. Afterall, this is kind of what the title suggests. However, the book is not at all for beginners. It presupposes knowledge of the techniques of basic meditation and instead goes on to the next stage, discussing what we should be trying to achieve or not achieve from practicing Zen meditation. This is where adopting the 'Beginner's Mind' comes in to play. Despite not agreeing with everything in the text, the book was certainly enlightening in parts and worthy of many a quote.



...the most difficult thing is always to keep your begin-
ner's mind. There is no need to have a deep understanding
of Zen. Even though you read much Zen literature, you must
read each sentence with a fresh mind. You should not say,
"I know what Zen is," or "I have attained enlightenment."
This is also the real secret of the arts: always be a beginner.

Whatever we see is changing, losing its balance. The
reason everything looks beautiful is because it is out of bal-
ance, but its background is always in perfect harmony. This
is how everything exists in the realm of Buddha nature,
losing its balance against a background of perfect balance.
So if you see things without realizing the background of
Buddha nature, everything appears to be in the form of suf-
fering. But if you understand the background of existence,
you realize that suffering itself is how we live, and how we
extend our life. So in Zen sometimes we emphasize the
imbalance or disorder of life.

Sincerity itself is the railway track. The sights we see from
the train will change, but we are always running on the
same track. And there is no beginning or end to the track:
beginningless and endless track. There is no starting point
nor goal, nothing to attain. Just to run on the track is our
way. This is the nature of our Zen practice.
But when you become curious about the railway track,
danger is there. You should not see the railway track. If you
look at the track you will become dizzy. Just appreciate
the sights you see from the train. That is our way.

If an artist becomes too idealistic, he will commit
suicide, because between his ideal and his actual ability
there is a great gap. Because there is no bridge long enough
to go across the gap, he will begin to despair. That is the
usual spiritual way. But our spiritual way is not so idealistic.
In some sense we should be idealistic; at least we should
be interested in making bread which tastes and looks good!
Actual practice is repeating over and over again until you
find out how to become bread. There is no secret in our
way. Just to practice zazen and put ourselves into the oven
is our way.

Zen is not something to get excited about. Some people
start to practice Zen just out of curiosity, and they only
make themselves busier. If your practice makes you worse,
it is ridiculous. I think that if you try to do zazen once a
week, that will make you busy enough. Do not be too in-
terested in Zen. When young people get excited about Zen
they often give up schooling and go to some mountain or
forest in order to sit. That kind of interest is not true
Just continue in your calm, ordinary practice and your
character will be built up. If your mind is always busy, there
will be no time to build, and you will not be successful,
particularly if you work too hard on it.

Buddha said the same thing about the good ox driver. The
driver knows how much load the ox can carry, and he keeps
the ox from being overloaded. You know your way and
your state of mind. Do not carry too much!

...Zen is not concerned about philosophical understanding.
We emphasize practice.

This is how we should appreciate our life. Those who are
attached only to the result of their effort will not have any chance
to appreciate it, because the result will never come. But if moment
by momen t your effort arises from its pur e origin, all you do
will be good, and you wil l be satisfied with whatever you do.

Nothing exists but momentarily in its present form
and color. One thing flows into another and cannot be
grasped. Before the rain stops we hear a bird. Even under the
heavy snow we see snowdrops and some new growth.

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