Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice

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Title:Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice
Author:Shunryu Suzuki
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Edition Language:English

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice Reviews

  • Keleigh

    This book was recommended to me by various persons in different phases of my life, but I clearly wasn't ready to read it till now. Suzuki's talks on zazen are spare and direct, demystifying Buddhism as a religion or philosophy and continually bringing the focus back to the simple and perfect practice of sitting--cleaning out your mind through meditation. Though we all choose different paths according to our culture and temperament, the ultimate desire is the same: for the soul or "big I" to free

    This book was recommended to me by various persons in different phases of my life, but I clearly wasn't ready to read it till now. Suzuki's talks on zazen are spare and direct, demystifying Buddhism as a religion or philosophy and continually bringing the focus back to the simple and perfect practice of sitting--cleaning out your mind through meditation. Though we all choose different paths according to our culture and temperament, the ultimate desire is the same: for the soul or "big I" to freely express itself, released from delusion. Whether you meditate or not, Suzuki provides useful and illuminating truths for anyone interested in becoming more mindful. Here is one of my favorite passages:

    "Each of us must make his own true way, and when we do, that way will express the universal way. This is the mystery. When you understand one thing, you understand everything. When you try to understand everything, you will not understand anything. The best way is to understand yourself, and then you will understand everything. So when you try hard to make your own way, you will help others, and you will be helped by others. Before you make your own way you cannot help anyone, and no one can help you. To be independent in this true sense, we have to forget everything which we have in our mind and discover something quite new and different moment after moment. This is how we live in this world."

  • Erik Graff

    This is the best non-academic introduction to Zen Buddhism that I've come upon. What caught me especially was a moment in the introduction when an interview with Suzuki was interrupted by his wife. She was serving tea, overheard part of his discourse and remarked to the interviewer that, in essence, he was full of shit, having never attained satori--all given and taken in good humor.

  • William2

    This book is balm. My second reading. It contains its own instructions for reading too. If some metaphor or anecdote seems too dense, just let it pass. There is no need to read the text as closely as I just have; that’s me. Suzuki-roshi explains it all. Toward the end it gets a little bit repetitious; that’s because these are in fact transcripts—elegantly edited—of talks given at Tassajarra Zen Mountain Monastery, Los Altos, California in 1969 or so. Really worthwhile if you seek big Mind.

  • Riku Sayuj

    If and when you meet The Buddha,

    Kill him.

    Then come back

    And sit.

    Sit

    In Zazen.

    Be.

    Enlightenment is there,

    Before it arrives.

  • Francisco

    One of the classic introductions of Buddhist Zen practice in America. So many books on Zen written since this small jewel first came out forty-five years ago. Is there really more to say than shikan taza - just sitting: "When you bow, you should just bow; when you sit you should just sit; when you eat you should just eat. When you do this, the universal nature is there." We are achievers, us westerners. Goal oriented. Forever striving. But what if what your heart most wants (even if you don't kn

    One of the classic introductions of Buddhist Zen practice in America. So many books on Zen written since this small jewel first came out forty-five years ago. Is there really more to say than shikan taza - just sitting: "When you bow, you should just bow; when you sit you should just sit; when you eat you should just eat. When you do this, the universal nature is there." We are achievers, us westerners. Goal oriented. Forever striving. But what if what your heart most wants (even if you don't know it) is already there in you. The effort needed to get there is one more of return than of advancement, more of letting go than of attaining. There's so much wisdom in this little book. Even if you have a hard time undertaking a practice of meditation. Let's not call it meditation. Let's call it calming your mind by letting things be as they are. Don't fight and struggle against your problems. For a few moments just sit and let everything in your mind and your life be as it is.Take a few minutes now and then to be a beginner in whatever you do. "When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self we are true beginners." Isn't this also the secret of the great artists: to always be a beginner? You begin to write because of a need to express something in you. There's no pulitzer prize in your mind. There is just the writing. "If you do something in the spirit of non-achievement, there is a good quality in it." "So try not to achieve anything special. You already have everything in your own pure quality. If you understand this ultimate fact, there is no fear. There may be some difficulty, of course, but there is no fear."

    I'm pretty sure that Shunryu Suzuki would not mind if you incorporate the wisdom in his book to wherever you are in life, whatever religious beliefs you have (or not have). "Whether or not you make yourself peaceful is the point, and whether or not you stick to it." Stick to it, as in taking some of that peacefulness into your daily life. I like this book (which I re-read periodically) for the insights and the inspiration it gives me. It helps me to see where creativity comes from and to where I must return to find it again. You can call it "God" or "Buddha Nature" or "Emptiness" or the "Self" with a capital s, or simply the unknown subconscious, but there is a reality, a mysterious reality, that exists behind your thoughts. Shunryu Suzuki sometimes calls it big mind, sometimes he calls it our true nature. Whatever name you give it, once you know it is there, you will realize it to be the source of all true creativity (and also of all true compassion). "You must put confidence in the big mind which is always with you, you should be able to express things as an expression of big mind. This is more than faith. This is the ultimate truth which we cannot reject."

  • Gabrielle

    This book had been on my radar for a while, and then in his bibliography of "Don't Be A Jerk" (

    ), Brad Warner basically says "You need this book!!". Who am I to argue with Brad?

    As the subtitle "Informal talks on Zen meditation and practice" implies, the essays in this book are transcripts of lectures Shunryu Suzuki gave to students, arranged by topics. Suzuki is often described as a "founding father" of Zen in America, as he was one of the first to bring t

    This book had been on my radar for a while, and then in his bibliography of "Don't Be A Jerk" (

    ), Brad Warner basically says "You need this book!!". Who am I to argue with Brad?

    As the subtitle "Informal talks on Zen meditation and practice" implies, the essays in this book are transcripts of lectures Shunryu Suzuki gave to students, arranged by topics. Suzuki is often described as a "founding father" of Zen in America, as he was one of the first to bring the teachings to the continent and to teach Westerners. He was also the first one to found a Buddhist monastery outside Asia, in California.

    In the afterword, David Chadwick perfectly captured why reading this book is so inspiring: he says Suzuki "has confidence that you, whoever you are, can understand Zen, Buddhism, reality, truth, yourself." Zen is ultimately very simple; it's grasping that simplicity that can be a complicated process.

    Anyone interested in practicing Zen should read this book, but I also can't really recommended it to newbies: if you haven't already read a couple of books about Zen, some of the material in Suzuki's essays will be impossible to grasp. Suzuki gave those lectures to people who were already practicing Zen, so it assumes you are familiar with basic teachings and meditation techniques. For people who are working on their Zen practice however, the material in this book is invaluable. It's also the kind of book that needs to be read more than once!

    Posture, breathing, intent, attitude, mindfulness, enthusiasm, mistakes; all these ideas are addressed in a way that is tailor-made for Western students. The essays are clear, encouraging, inspiring, motivating and uplifting. Suzuki's tone is full of joy and devotion, which I thought made reading this a truly great experience! Very highly recommended!

  • Fergus

    YOU’VE GOT TO PICK UP EVERY STITCH

    MUST BE THE SEASON OF THE WITCH...

    - DONOVAN

    In this age of rabid misinformation, it’s best to pay attention. An ancient Zen teacher said we’ve got to scrutinize it ALL - ‘Attention means ATTENTION!’

    Another old Zen Master used to shout at his young students, “You’ve got to climb to the top of a thousand-foot wooden pole!“

    Yeah, well, we all know such poles aren’t made that high.

    So what gives?

    The point of the story is simple: when you run out of pole, just keep cli

    YOU’VE GOT TO PICK UP EVERY STITCH

    MUST BE THE SEASON OF THE WITCH...

    - DONOVAN

    In this age of rabid misinformation, it’s best to pay attention. An ancient Zen teacher said we’ve got to scrutinize it ALL - ‘Attention means ATTENTION!’

    Another old Zen Master used to shout at his young students, “You’ve got to climb to the top of a thousand-foot wooden pole!“

    Yeah, well, we all know such poles aren’t made that high.

    So what gives?

    The point of the story is simple: when you run out of pole, just keep climbing!

    Impossible?

    Maybe not. Because life‘s like that, too.

    I’ll explain...

    You‘re late for a crucial Power Meeting. As you open the door to the conference room, you see your zipper‘s at half-mast...

    Or you‘re coming home from a nice, harmless office Christmas party. As you open the door, you‘re happy you‘re home early, because your wife will be there to greet you. What you don‘t know is there‘s hot pink lipstick on your cheek...

    We‘re not born with attention! And now - we’re suddenly climbing in VERY thin air.

    Shunryu Suzuki would chuckle quietly over that one. A quiet, humble man, his way was not the way of those autocratic old masters.

    He liked a simpler, more decent approach to spirituality.

    He was the Heart and Soul of The San Francisco Zen Centre back in the glory days of the Hippie Era. Long-haired sandalled young searchers all around the world carried this book in their backpack as they hitch-hiked to Nirvana!

    Yes, he was really something, and he had to leave us much too soon.

    But he reminded us that our faith is STILL not a happily-ever-after affair, though it can be unhurried.

    It is earned - and has to be LEARNED, just like these old teachers said - every single day of our lives.

    For the REST of our lives.

    But we now have his kinder, gentler way to make us get back up and stand on our own two feet, when we fall flat.

    Like the old song says:

    C‘mon you little fighter,

    No need to get uptighter.

    C‘mon you little fighter -

    Just get back up again.

    Sound corny?

    That’s all this little solid-gold book is - simple, heartfelt encouragement for our own long and winding road...

    And learning to meditate quietly through the process of simple, unhurried, and UNFORCED attention.

  • Sean Barrs the Bookdragon

    How do I put this into words? This does actually work. Simple Zen meditation on a nightly basis does help to put things into perspective. It helps clear the mind and get rid of those false delusions and expectations; it helps you move away from dangerous attachment and recognise the impermanence of everything. Not to mention its benefits in reducing stress and actual

    How do I put this into words? This does actually work. Simple Zen meditation on a nightly basis does help to put things into perspective. It helps clear the mind and get rid of those false delusions and expectations; it helps you move away from dangerous attachment and recognise the impermanence of everything. Not to mention its benefits in reducing stress and actually allowing one a peaceful night’s sleep.

    Live in the now, enjoy the now. Don’t waste a moment because you won’t get that moment back. Ten years from now when you look back you’ll kick yourself for missing those opportunities. As we get older we always look back to a time in the past and cling to it, we wish to go back to it, which is folly because at each stage in our life we are doing the same thing. The point is to make the most of it all now, in every now. Learn the state of emptiness.

    Open your Zen mind and begin to walk down the path of Buddhism.

  • Heather

    I know this is supposed to be THE zen book for beginners, by one of the most influential western zen masters, etc. But it didn't set a fire under me at all. I found myself trying to mine a few words of relevant wisdom from chapter after chapter of semi-opaque discourse. It's not that the book is difficult to read, but that the insights offered by Suzuki Roshi (undeniably a great zen master) are the insights of an old man who has been practicing zen for a long time and talking to serious zen stud

    I know this is supposed to be THE zen book for beginners, by one of the most influential western zen masters, etc. But it didn't set a fire under me at all. I found myself trying to mine a few words of relevant wisdom from chapter after chapter of semi-opaque discourse. It's not that the book is difficult to read, but that the insights offered by Suzuki Roshi (undeniably a great zen master) are the insights of an old man who has been practicing zen for a long time and talking to serious zen students for a long time. In other words, it's not a beginner's book at all, and it's not really about beginners' minds. You have to already know the benefits of Zen and Buddhism before you read this book, or it will bore you and turn you off of Zen.

    A true beginner is the person off the street who is sincerely interested in Zen but doesn't know why he or she should start a serious practice. This person is full of problems! Life is really problematic! Life is really hard and painful! What can Zen Buddhism say to this person? A lot, but this book doesn't say much. Suzuki Roshi talks a lot of typically riddle-ish circles about emptiness and expression, calmness and oneness...his audience are serious Zen students. There are a few nuggets to entice the true beginner into wondering what riches lie beneath the smooth, hard, polished surface of this practice called Zen. But to get at those riches, I would recommend a different book: Everyday Zen, Love and Work, by Charlotte Joko Beck. That book lit a fire under me. I'll go write a review of it right now.

  • Jan-Maat

    This is one of those curious books like the

    that did not start out as a book but rather as lectures or in this case brief talks. The author's talks were taped, transcribed and then put into the order they have in the book. Reading it from cover to cover then is as arbitrary as reading it in any order. Each piece is free-standing. Each can be reread. In my experience it is even better to reread pieces and not to try and read too many at one time. The murderer is not revealed on the last page, there is no shocking denouement. It is what it is. A series of commentaries on the practise of Zen. I imagine that someone familiar with some other form of Buddhism might find this book rather curious.

    (p90) by which measure it seems that I apparently have an excellent understanding of it, but I can say that there are two themes that crop up in a lot of the talks. The difficultly of talking about Zen or Buddhism - one dialogue of about four sentences ends with 'lets have some tea'. This at least is a philosophy that I can understand, although naturally can't explain easily. He's keen to avoid doctrine, this is a book about being engaged in the practice of Zen, it is not a book about Zen.

    The other main theme is the ordinariness of Zen. It is very domestic in this book. Nothing special. Simply being true to ones own nature. This reminds me of hearing how Buddhism was transformed in China from having a tendency to be difficult and hard to achieve, requiring particular effort, to being something that people could do at home, without families having to be broken up by people running off to monasteries, caves or mountain tops. I would write further about what this means in terms of the domestic and the every day, but it seems that I understand it too well.

    I have had this book on my shelves for a long time. One of the good bad things about my austerity reading programme - the difficultly of talking about duality and non-duality is also important - is reading the dusty as well as the new books. Reading this from cover to cover works and does not work. It is best perhaps to read a piece after practising Zen. I can't tell you how to practise Zen - you sit, preferably cross-legged, and become aware of your breathing but don't think 'I am practising Zen!'. Perhaps you bow, or read Sutras which you can't understand but strive to. All of this is hard easy to talk about, but which makes more less sense if you do it I imagine.

    The beginner's mind is good because it is free from pre-conceptions. It has not learnt what is impossible. It has not learnt to constrain itself.

    I wonder about what is unwritten here. Sitting and observing your breathing does not strike me as a particular remunerative activity (although it would be nice to be wrong about this). How did he afford to establish himself in the USA? Does he have an intention to bring Zen to the USA - how does this effect his teaching? It is interesting to think of this book as the missionary lure, dangling to catch the convert.

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