Book Review: Zen Mind, Beginners Mind

Zen Mind, Beginners Mind: 40th Anniversary Edition
Written by Shunryu Suzuki
Published by Shambhala Publications

“You may think that if there is no purpose or no goal in our practice, we will not know what to do. But there is a way. 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.”

I think this quote epitomizes the message of the this book. Shunryu’s approach to explaining Zen not only to groups of Americans in the 60’s, but even today, was simple and like a pond that is motionless, clear as clear can be.

He came to the US to mind Soko-ji, a temple located in San Francisco. He was a bit put off by the fact the Zen that had been taught was diluted. He was excited though to see and hear all that was going on and believed that teaching Americans could help revolutionize Zen teachings. He went on to found the San Fransisco Zen Center, and left Soko-ji disappointed with the way Zen was being taught by mainly Japanese immigrants. He believed that the students he was gaining, mainly Caucasian hippies, were more serious about the core practices.

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bow, recite, visualize…

I’ve been struggling, as a matter of fact, struggling doesn’t even begin to help one understand where I’m at. I’ve been doing a ngöndro practice for a few months now. I know why I’m doing it, or at least I think I know why.

I bounce my head against the wall every time it comes to the point in the day I need to begin. I get to my space, start doing it and it feel like I’m just going through the motions… bow, recite, visualize… bow, recite, visualize… bow, recite, visualize…

My mind goes into a tizzy, “Do I really need to do this?” “Do I really need a teacher?” “Is this shit really for me?” “What is the plan Nate?” “What are you trying to accomplish here?”

My practice feels like it is in shambles, in small pieces like a house demolished after a hurricane. I hate to quote Katy Perry but she has a song on the radio that includes the lyrics “After a hurricane comes a rainbow.” It’s given me a bit of hope that this shall pass, and has provided a bit of assurance that it will.

I’ve also been reading “Zen Mind, Beginners Mind” and the key thing I’ve learned from it so far is that it is ok to struggle, the beginners mind is possibly the way to be. Not sure if I agree at the moment, but I do understand what Shunryu Suzuki is getting at with those words.

There is no real point to this post, just airing out some stuff, feels a bit better that way!