Zen Mind

Excerpts from Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki (10-11 January 1995) after Edna St. Vincent Millay

When we cross our legs like this, even though we have a right leg and a left leg, they have become one. What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. The true purpose is to see things as they are, and to let everything go as it goes. This is to put everything under control in its widest sense. Waves are the practice of water. To speak of waves apart from water or water apart from waves is a delusion. We must make some effort, but we must forget ourselves in the effort we make. If you study calligraphy you will find that those who are not so clever with their hands usually become the best calligraphers. When Buddha comes, you will welcome him; when the devil comes, you will welcome him. Sometimes the master and disciple bow together to Buddha. Sometimes we may bow to cats and dogs. When we express our true nature, we are human beings. When we do not, we do not know what we are. So even if the sun were to rise from the west, the Bodhisattva has only one way. His way is in each moment to express his nature and his sincerity. Bread is made from flour. How flour becomes bread when put in the oven was for Buddha the most important thing. Actual practice is repeating over and over again until you find out how to become bread. Building character is like making bread— you have to mix it little by little, step by step, and moderate temperature is needed. So try not to see something in particular; try not to achieve something special. You already have everything in your own pure quality. Usually when it is so simple we say, "Oh, I know that! It is quite simple. Everyone knows that." But if we do not find its value, it means nothing. It is the same as not knowing. To reach the other shore with each step of the crossing is the way of true living. Whether you have difficulties in your practice or not, as long as you continue it, you have pure practice in its true sense. The way to practice without having any goal is to limit your activity, or to be concentrated on what you are doing in this moment. When we hear the sound of the pine trees on a windy day, perhaps the wind is just blowing, and the pine tree is just standing in the wind. When you are you, you see things as they are, and you become one with your surroundings. If you are ready to accept things as they are, you will receive them as old friends, even though you appreciate them with new feeling. A mind full of preconceived ideas, subjective intentions, or habits is not open to things as they are. That is why we practice zazen: to clear our mind of what is related to something else. When you do everything without thinking about whether it is good or bad, and when you do something with your whole mind and body, then that is our way. Before we were born we had no feeling; we were one with the universe. After we are separated by birth from this oneness, as the water falling from the waterfall is separated by the wind and rocks, then we have feeling. You have difficulty because you have feeling. When you believe in your way, enlightenment is there. But when you cannot believe in the meaning of the practice which you are doing in this moment, you cannot do anything. You are just wandering around the goal with your monkey mind. You are always looking for something without knowing what you are doing. We should find the truth in this world, through our difficulties, through our suffering. When you do something, if you fix your mind on the activity with some confidence, the quality of your state of mind is the activity itself. The seed has no idea of being some particular plant, but it has its own form and is in perfect harmony with the ground, with its surroundings. Each one of us must make his own true way, and when we do, that way will express the universal way. If we are prepared for thinking, there is no need to make an effort to think. But if you are always prepared for accepting everything we see as something appearing from nothing, knowing that there is some reason why a phenomenal existence of such and such form and color appears, then at that moment you will have perfect composure. We should accept weeds, despite how we feel about them. If you do not care for them, do not love them; if you love them, then love them. The meaning lies in the effort itself. We should find out the meaning of our effort before we attain something. It is not after attaining enlightenment that we find its true meaning. So just to sit, without any idea of gain, and with the purest intention, to remain as quiet as our original nature—this is our practice. There should not be any particular teaching. Teaching is in each moment, in every existence. When you just observe the delusion, you have your true mind, your calm, peaceful mind. When you start to cope with it you will be involved in delusion. Buddha nature is our original nature; we have it before we practice zazen and before we acknowledge it in terms of consciousness. The big mind in which we must have confidence is something which is always with you, always on your side. Your eyes are on your side, for you cannot see your eyes, and your eyes cannot see themselves.