Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice, Shunryu Suzuki 1970

If Zen is popularly conceived to be vague, confusing, and hard to get a handle on, this book will totally confirm that impression.  Suzuki who died in 1971 came to the US from Japan in 1959 and established the best known Zen center in San Francisco and the first Buddhist monastery in the U.S..  This book compiles notes from  his many lectures and establishes that the basis of Zen is meditation, zazen, i.e. the practice of sitting erect in a firm posture and emptying the mind of all preconceived notions so that the mind can embrace the emptiness that enables its true nature to become evident.  The book is full of koans, the characteristic story or statement in Zen that is designed to puzzle and provoke thought.  An example is the following:  “If you seek for freedom, you cannot find it.  Absolute freedom itself is necessary before you can acquire absolute freedom.”  Perhaps this is clear to you, but it’s not to me.  I did come away from the book with this basic message:  “So the point is to be ready for observing things, and to be ready for thinking.  This is called emptiness of your mind.  Emptiness is nothing but the practice of zazen…..When you practice zazen you should not try to attain anything.  You should just sit in the complete calmness of your mind and not rely on anything.”  A complex and at times confusing book, but confirms the notion that meditation and calm sitting are the ways to inner peace.

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