PZI Teacher Archives

Ceremonies: Long Readings for Afternoon: Beginner’s Mind – Shunryu Suzuki


Beginner’s Mind —Shunryu Suzuki In the beginner’s mind there is no thought, “I have attained […]

Beginner’s Mind

—Shunryu Suzuki

In the beginner’s mind there is no thought, “I have attained something.” All self-centered ideas limit our vast mind. The beginner’s mind is the mind of compassion. When our mind is compassionate, it is boundless. Then we are always true to ourselves, in sympathy with all beings, and can actually practice. Whatever we see is changing, losing its balance. The reason everything looks beautiful is because it is out of balance, but its background is always in perfect harmony. This is how everything exists in the realm of Buddha nature. Without realizing the background of Buddha nature, everything appears to be in the form of suffering. Suffering itself is how we live, and how we extend our life. 

To stop your mind does not mean to stop the activities of mind. It means that your mind pervades your whole body. When your practice is calm and ordinary, everyday life itself is enlightenment. If you do not lose yourself, then even though you have difficulty, there is actually no problem whatsoever. When your life is always a part of your surroundings—in other words, when you are called back to yourself, in the present moment—then there is no problem. When you start to wander about in some delusion which is something apart from yourself, then your surroundings are not real anymore, and your mind is not real anymore. 

Once you are in the midst of delusion, there is no end to delusion. To solve the problem is to be part of it, to be one with it. We do not seek for something besides ourselves. We should find the truth in this world, through our difficulties, through our suffering. Mindfulness is, at the same time, wisdom. It is the readiness of the mind that is wisdom. Our true nature is beyond our conscious experience. Firm conviction in the original emptiness of your mind is the most important thing in your practice. Even though you think you are in delusion, your pure mind is there. To realize pure mind in your delusion is practice. If you have pure mind the delusion will vanish. This is to attain enlightenment before you realize it.

True nature is watching water. When you say, “My zazen is very poor,” here you have true nature, but do not realize it. Nothing exists but momentarily in its present form and color. One thing flows into another and cannot be grasped. The true purpose is to see things as they are, to observe things as they are, and to let everything go as it goes. This is to put everything under control in its widest sense. Zen practice is to open up our small mind. So concentrating is just an aid to help you realize “big mind”, or the mind that is everything. That everything is included within your mind is the essence of mind. Even though waves arise, the essence of your mind is pure. Waves are the practice of the water. Big mind and small mind are one. As your mind does not expect anything from the outside, it is always filled. A mind with waves in it is not a disturbed mind, but actually an amplified one. In one sense our experiences coming by one by one are always fresh and new, but in another sense they are nothing but a continuous unfolding of the one big mind. With big mind we accept each of our experiences as if recognizing the face we see in a mirror as our own. With this imperturbable composure of big mind we practice zazen.