52 in 52 Book Summaries

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

Zen mind, Beginner's mindbook cover

forces of habit book summary on Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki


The Essence

Zen Mind Beginner’s mind is not only an essential text in the introductory work of Zen, but it’s also a modern spiritual classic. An organized series of lectures by the late Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki. In Zen an open state of mind is imperative. One that is simple, pure, what is called a Beginners mind. It is only through a beginner’s mind that we can accept the reality ‘as it is’. Many times, our states are bogged down by ‘expertise’ or ‘theory’, it is during these times that we close ourselves off from states of consciousness that inspire introspection, and compassion; beginner’s mind is Zen means for reaching such states.

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind Journal Entry Notes:

This is my book summary of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. My notes are a reflection of the journal write up above. Written informally, the notes contain a mesh and mix of quotes and my own thoughts on the book. Sometimes, to my own fault, quotes are interlaced with my own words. Though rest assured, I am not attempting to take any credit for the main ideas below. The Journal write up includes important messages and crucial passages from the book.

The practice of Zen mind is beginner’s mind.
The mind of the beginner is empty,
Free of the habits of the expert;
ready to accept,
to doubt,
to all possibilities.
See things as they are.
We must maintain beginner’s mind.

• To live is to create problems…so give yourself to wisdom to cross over.
• Emotionally we have many problems, but these problems are not actual problems; they are something created; they are problems pointed out by our self-centered ideas or views.
• To do something new, of course we must know our past, and this is alright. But we should NOT keep holding onto anything we have done; we should only reflect on it.
• We emphasize straight forwardness: be true your feelings, and to your mind, expressing yourself without any reservations. This helps the listener to understand more easily.
When you listen to someone, you should give up all your preconceived ideas and your subjective opinion; Just Listen, Just Observe…see things as they are in him and accept them.
• We find truth in this world through our difficulties, through our suffering.
• To study Buddhism is to study ourselves. To study ourselves is to forget ourselves.
• What you do is good, but something more is added to it, Pride is extra. Right effort is to get rid of something extra.
• “Pulling out the weeds we give nourishment to the plants.” Difficulty in our practice will yield growth, enrichment.
• Cultivate your spirit. This means do not go seeking for something outside of yourself.
• The true understanding is that the mind includes EVERYTHING. Nothing outside yourself can cause you any trouble. YOU yourself make the waves in your mind.
• “If you lose the spirit of repetition, your practice will become quite difficult.”
• Wisdom is not something to learn. Wisdom is something which will come out of your mindfulness.
• Remember that when we are battling a storm of appraisals that what you create is not real. Say, “OH, this is just delusion”. Just observe and do not be bothered by it.
• Do something means complete involvement: Devote yourself.
• When you do something, just to do it should be your purpose. Form is form and you are you. The shadows of reasoning are riddled with Ego.
• “Two catch two birds with one stone”: Because they want to catch too many birds they find is difficult to be concentrated on one activity, and they may not end up catching any birds at all!
That kind of thinking always leaves its shadow on activity. The shadow is not actually the thought. Of course, it is often necessary to think or prepare before we act. But right thinking leaves no shadow. Thinking which leaves traces comes out of your relative confused mind. Relative mind is the mind which sets itself in relation to others, thus limiting it.

Reading Recommendations

If you liked what you saw. Here are 3 titles that I recommend based on what was discussed in Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind.

  1. Be Here Now by Ram Dass
  2. The Way of Zen by Alan Watts
  3. Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Find the book on Amazon: Print 

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