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Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind ☼

The good fortune of having read Dr [Daihatz] Suzuki's books, heard quite a few of his lectures, and read whatever else was available to me on Zen Buddhism, has given me at least an approximate idea of what constitutes Zen. - Erich Fromm (1986, 70)

In the quotation, Erich Fromm shows a beginner's mind. Valuable books may enrich our minds and repertoires, and some books are repositories of findings or knowledge.

1. In a true beginner's mind there is not a thought of "original mind"

Shunryu Suzuki decrees: "You should not say, 'I have attained enlightenment. (1999, 21)'. But you may tell "I am one of the illuminati" . . .

You may have to work for it. Buddhism offers several methods towards it, and one method is credited its founder, Gautama Buddha.

2. True achievement: Enlightenment

Dogen, founder of Soto Zen in Japan, always emphasized how important it is to resume "no thought of achievement, no thought of self," in a proper way, and why? He advocates a meditation method that is based on such features. Actually, there are other methods around too, and Buddha advocates keeping an eye on what gives sound progress as well:

Whether they meditate with or without expectations, if they have the wrong ideas and the wrong methods, they will not get any [good] fruit from their meditation. . .

But if somebody meditates with a wholesome attitude, with right attention and mindfulness, then whether he has expectations or not he will gain insight.

(Highlights from the Bhumija Sutta in the Majjhima Nikaya, by Anne Bancroft 2010:58-59. Highlighing added.)

So fit ideas and methods need to be got, and fit thoughts of achievements too. Much depends on that. What to focus on during meditation sessions, however, depends on one's methods. Dogen's advice above has such a limited scope: Kasamatsu and Hirai's EEG study of Zen meditators reveals that Zen instructors have thought of the achievements of themselves and their students, they too. By studying the electrical activities of the brain during Zazen (Zen meditation), and comparing it to the general impressions that Zen teachers had of their own and their students's attainments in contemplation, it showed up that there was a good deal of correspondence. There was, further, a neat correspondence between such general impressions, years of training, and the EEG measurement results. [Source of Zen findings]

3. Zen sitting

The beginner's mind in Zen is what a beginner would have before the Zen quest, or right at the start of it. If we have found the goal before sitting, what is the need for Zen training, you may well ask. The answer you might get is that the beginner's mind is what to start with.

So: Being erect enough is the achievement for many good things throughout life. Getting solvent is another good thing. A fit congruence with the better parts of one's heritage and tradition may suit you too. Much in society is based on strife for money and many other good things - all of which should be had by fair means, teaches Buddha


Sex and Shooting ☼

1. Good training makes the marksman

What are the alternatives to methodical and relaxed self-improvement by small steps at a time? Lagging behind may be one.

2. Training that makes dysfunctional, may eventually stultify

The frisk Zen advice to "eat while eating" relates to "be in the here-and-now" as well as you can, if not patently.

3. The purpose of brisk training is to get and remain attuned inwards as well as you can

There is a fine book by the Asian-Canadian sexologist and Taoist philosopher Jolan Chang, The Tao of Love and Sex, to compare with. (1991, 17-18, etc.)

Much regular meditation could be needed for sensing finer, subtler sides to life.

4. The fringe may be told of, so textual study can help some persons on

Love-making is quite determined.

Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki has written a foreword to the book Zen and the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel (1989). Some delicate points are shown in it that may be hard to come by elsewhere.

Reality is outside a sect's frame.

The fringe of much fit and even eminent may also help some.

Fine texts or books may contain salient points to be recalled and put into practice too.

So: Training that makes well attuned inwards, helps some guys a lot. 

Making book reading and art forms rewarding

What matters the most to students is probably not the amount of books on their book shelves.
Not how many of the books they have read, either, although it should help to have read them.
But how the students have made their main content their own.
Apt statements and assessment and much else may follow.

There is something similar to be said about paintings and many forms of photos too.
Study of the art of painting and of photography can be very rewarding.
After mastering some formal rules of constructing pictures,
Statements, assessments and "good summaries" in art form can follow.


Get the best of Zen without getting bitten ☼

Inward natures are different. The nature of the horse (or vitality from deep inside) may be revealed by the "fruits of its loins" too.

Try to let what you want and the actions towards it, harmonise well with each other. If you are exhausted, rest might be best -

1. Don't try to attain much by inner diving (including Zen) if you're not a good breed - at least mentally so

Get the best out of a day and also of Zen withour fuzz and ado and artificiality. It may pay to be well allied, and as cogent as you can.

The face of Bodhidharma (Daruma in Japanese) is used to represent the Zen spirit. It is good to add a pinch of salt to going to extremes, for Gentle Middle Way is of not going to extremes. (Addiss 1980, 129) (2)

2. Inward natures vary, inward attainments can vary much too

Big things can be composed. (3)

In several passages, the Tao Te Ching speaks of being allied with one's deeper, inner "true nature", be it of genial art, the nature of things, one's heritage streaks, and so on. It could help to be cogent too. (Addiss 1980, 128]

A single flower opens to five petals.
And bears fruit according to its own nature. (Addiss 1980, 149-50]

The Zen artists learnt to combine painting, calligraphy and poetry well to allude at so-called transcendental insight, at best. (Addiss 1980, 19-22; 22ff] (4)

3. Starving yourself seldom does much good altogether

Try to preserve the best; it could mean a lot as time goes by. ✪ 

So: A flower opens up and bears fruit somehow according to its inner nature, provided the conditions are fit for it. And so could you. Try to preserve that sort of normal seedling fare as well as much normal conditions, and refrain from starving yourself a lot.

Be well allied with the best to remain with friends on earth.


From the Zen Hearth ☼

There is much to learn in life as we develop or plod on. There is much jargon, insider language, in many tracks of life, Mahayana with Zen included. Much can be be learnt to make salty teachings somewhat understandable, yet the feat that much leads up to, is to transcend, to go beyond teachings and language during meditation.

1. Decent ones should not be pressed into vicarious life-styles

Zen does not have to be marringly brutish, and suppose it goes beyond being Buddhist also. That is also what transcendence is about. Such basics can be glimpsed in the Platform Sutra by the Zen patriarch, Huineng (638–713), and many more works on Zen. This is Zen: (1)

Who sees intuitively his own nature, is a Buddha. - Huineng, The Platform Sutra, chap. 1)

Talk alone will not enable us to realise the essence of mind. - Huineng, The Platform Sutra, chap. 2)

When rain comes in a deluge, plants which are not deep rooted are washed away. - Huineng, The Platform Sutra, chap. 2)

When wickedness is alien to you, evil dragons will die out. - Huineng, The Platform Sutra, chap. 3)

Who wish to train themselves (spiritually) may do so at home. - Huineng, The Platform Sutra, chap. 3)

So far as the mind is pure, it is the 'Western Pure Land of one's own mind's essence'."- Huineng, The Platform Sutra, chap. 3)

Bodhi is to be found within our own mind, and there is no necessity to look for mysticism from without. - Huineng, The Platform Sutra, chap. 3)

It is essential to put into practice the best of what Buddhism teaches - to realise the essence of mind and attain buddhahood directly. - Huineng, The Platform Sutra, chap. 3)

We should start from our mind's essence. - Huineng, The Platform Sutra, chap. 6)

Those who can't see Buddha, how can they take refuge in him? Examine this point, so as to realise the essence of mind. The profundity of the teachings of the various Buddhas has nothing to do with the written language. - Huineng, The Platform Sutra, chap. 7)

Common people who fall into the wrong idea of 'vacuity', may be able to free themselves from the fallacious view . . . - Huineng, The Platform Sutra, chap. 7)

'Nirvana is everlasting joy.'- Huineng, The Platform Sutra, chap. 7)

It is without name and appellation, and yet you call it 'Source of Buddhas' and 'Buddha-nature. Even if you confine yourself in a mat shed for further study, you will be a dhyana scholar of secondhand knowledge only (i.e., knowledge from books and verbal authority instead of Knowledge obtained intuitively). - Huineng, The Platform Sutra, chap. 8)

The five aggregates are rupa (form, matter), vedana (sensation), samjna (perception), samskara (tendencies of mind), and vijnana (consciousness). - Huineng, The Platform Sutra, chap. 10)

Exert yourself [well] and take heed. - Huineng, The Platform Sutra, chap. 10)

The essence of mind or Tathata (Suchness) is the real Buddha. - Huineng, The Platform Sutra, chap. 10)

What you should do is to know your own mind and realise your own Buddha-nature. - Huineng, The Platform Sutra, chap. 10)

The key answer to "how?" is 'by deep meditation', skilfully performed.

2. Dogen did not talk for tenets at all times

Eihei Dogen (1200–53) wrote the essay Bendowa after he returned to Japan from his Zen training in China. Bendowa is said to sum up the ninety-five chapters of his Shobogenzo, so here are some points from the Bendowa:

After the religious mind arose in me, awakening the desire to seek the Way, I visited many religious teachers throughout the country. - Dogen, in Waddell and Abe 2002, 9)

I practiced under Zen master Ju-ching at Mount T'ai-pai, and there I resolved the one great matter of Zen practice for my entire life. [He says he was Enlightened.] - Dogen (Ib., 9)

There will be those who have no concern for gain or glory, authentic religious seekers whose desire for the Way takes precedence over all else. They will be led vainly astray by mistaken teachers, and the right understanding will be arbitrarily obscured from them. They will become needlessly drunk with their own delusions and immersed forever in the world of illusion. How can the true seed of prajna [insight, gnosis] be expected to quicken and grow within such seekers? How will they ever reach the moment of attainment? - Dogen (Ib., 10)

Buddha Dharma . . . [once] began to spread. We must pray that this will take place in our country as well. - Dogen (Ib., 11)

It is said that all the patriarchs and Buddhas who have maintained the Buddha Dharma have without question considered practice based upon proper sitting in jijuyu samadhi as the right path that led to their enlightenment. All those who have gained enlightenment in India and China have followed in this way of practice as well. - Dogen (Ib., 11)

Men have flowed into the Way drawn by grasses and flowers, mountains and running water. - Dogen (Ib., 16-17)

Do not get caught up in skillfully turned words and phrases . . . I am showing you the wondrous Way by which the Buddha-patriarchs transmit the Dharma. - Dogen (Ib., 17)

A clear-sighted master who has attained the Way and is in accord with realization . . . the spirits of the realms of light and darkness come to him and take refuge. - Dogen (Ib., 17)

From . . . mistaken views appear . . . five vehicles, Buddha, no-Buddha [etc.]. You must not think that learning such notions is the proper path of Buddhist practice. - Dogen (Ib., 17)

Outstep the confines of illusion and enlightenment, sentiment and calculation and, unbothered by alternatives of unenlightened and enlightened, . . . troll at ease beyond the world of forms and regulations enjoying the function of great enlightenment. How can those enmeshed in the traps and snares of words and letters begin to measure up to you? - Dogen (Ib., 18)

I urge . . . all high-minded seekers who aspire to the truth that is found in the Buddha Dharma. - Dogen (Ib., 20)

Realize that birth-and-death is in and of itself nirvana. - Dogen (Ib., 22.)

All dharmas – the "myriad forms dense and close" of the universe – are alike in being this one Mind. All are included without exception. All those dharmas, which serve as "gates" or entrances to the Way, are the same one Mind. - Dogen (Ib., 23)

When you encounter a good master for the first time, just inquire about the rules and regulations with regard to practice, and then devote yourself wholeheartedly to [work out] the Way in zazen. - Dogen (Ib., 27)

3. If you thrive by fixed outlets and even calligraphy, let it do much good for you too.

The whole universe and everything in it is Buddha Nature, explains Hubert Nearman (2007, 267n). From this it may be deduced that many outlets may serve us both on mundane levels and further - depending on skills again. (5)

So: See your inherent nature, your own Buddha-nature, which is without appellation and with no voidness view. As Dogen says, do what you can to flow into the Way, the Way of deepening meditation.


Zen Buddhism, Dogen teachings, Huineng sayings, Literature  

Addiss, Stephen. The Art of Zen. New York: Abrams, 1980.

Bancroft, Anne, ed. The Buddha Speaks: A Book of Guidance from the Buddhist Scriptures. Reprint ed. Boston: Shambala, 2010.

Chang, Jolan. The Tao of Love and Sex. London: Penguin, 1991.

Fromm, Erich. Psychoanalysis and Zen Buddhism. Unwin. London, 1986.

Herrigel, Eugen. Zen in the Art of Archery. New York: Vintage Books, 1989.

McRae, John R. The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch. Berkeley, CA: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, 2000.

Nearman, Hubert. 2007. Shobogenzo: The Treasure House of the Eye of the True Teaching. Mount Shasta, CA: Shasta Abbey Press.

Suzuki, Shunryu. 1999. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. Rev ed. New York: Weatherhill.

Waddell, Norman, and Masao Abe. 2002. The Heart of Dogen's Shobogenzo. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Yampolsky, Philip, tr. The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch. The Text of the Tun-Huang Manuscript. New York: Columbia University, 1967.

Harvesting the hay

Symbols, brackets, signs and text icons explained: (1) Text markers(2) Digesting.

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