For Beginners Only

Anyone who has embarked on a spiritual journey over the past fifty years has more than likely discovered Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki, first master of the San Francisco Zen Center and Tasajara Zen Mountain Center – the unassuming, unswerving man with a twinkle in his eyes.

His collection of talks in ‘Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind’ point directly to the source of our being and is considered by many to be essential reading for serious seekers. Below are some favorite quotes from this book as well as from some of his other works – ripples on the vast ocean that is Shunryu Suzuki.

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‘In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.’

‘There are, strictly speaking, no enlightened people, there is only enlightened activity’.

‘What we call I is just a swinging door, which moves when we inhale and when we exhale.’

‘Treat every moment as your last. It is not preparation for something else.’

‘Actually water always has waves. Waves are the practice of the water. To speak of waves apart from water or water apart from waves is a delusion. Water and waves are one. Big mind and small mind are one. When you understand your mind in this way, you have some security in your feeling . . . Whatever you experience is an expression of big mind.’

‘When you do something, you should burn yourself completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.’

A student asked in dokusan (private interview), ‘If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?’ Suzuki Roshi answered, ‘It doesn’t matter.’

A student who had just concluded a thirty-day zazen (seated meditation) retreat with two enthusiastic dharma pals asked Suzuki Roshi how to maintain the extraordinary state of mind he’d attained. ‘Concentrate on your breathing, and it will go away,’ Suzuki said.

‘Wherever you are, you are one with the clouds and one with the sun and the stars you see. You are one with everything. That is more true than I can say, and more true than you can hear.’

Strictly Speaking

“There are, strictly speaking, no enlightened people, there is only enlightened activity.” – Shunryu Suzuki