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Zen is a school of Mahayana Buddhism which focuses on the attainment of enlightenment, and understanding Buddhist teachings. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, first published in 1970, shows readers how to walk on that path. The Zen mind is a phrase commonly used by Zen instructors to encourage beginners to notice themselves, to look beyond words, and introspect about a person's own mind and being.
The cover page of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind is interesting. The calligraphy reads tathagata in Sanskrit or nyorai in Japanese, both of which imply the Buddha. The author, Shunryu Suzuki, started a Zen Centre in Los Altos in California, where he would give lectures to a small group of followers. He used everyday events and common sense to explain the problems of life, and showed how practising Zen would help. The talks given during such sessions have been compiled together to give rise to Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind.
The book starts with the line, "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." This means that the beginner's mind is open, curious, and free of the habits of the experts. The author says that such a mind is empty, and thus has the ability to experience new things, and raise fresh doubts. Thus to practice Zen, a beginner's mind is very important.
Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind has teachings that have come together from some of the most renowned and creative Zen Masters like Dogen-zenji and Gyokujun So-on-daiosho. This book is divided into three parts. A few topics covered in Part I, titled Right Practice, are Posture, Mind Waves, No Dualism, and Nothing Special. Right Attitude focuses on Zen and Excitement, God Giving, To Polish a Tile, Nirvana, and the Waterfall. The last part, Right Understanding, includes Traditional Zen Spirit, Emptiness, Calmness, and Beyond Consciousness.
Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind is considered to be a spiritual classic. It starts from the basics, and guides readers forward. A beautiful book to read and practice for those keen to learn about the Zen Buddhism.
About Shunryu Suzuki
Shunryu Suzuki, born in 1904, was a Zen monk and teacher.
Some of his books include Branching Streams Flow In The Darkness, and Not Always So: Practicing The True Spirit of Zen. His biography, Crooked Cucumber, has been written by David Chadwick.
Suzuki was born in Japan to the abbot of the village Soto Zen temple. He started to get his training in Zen from a young age, and later joined the Komazawa University, the Soto Zen University in Tokyo. In 1930 he underwent tangaryo, the Zen initiation ceremony. He met a British woman once, and realized that Western ignorance of Buddhism could be transformed. In 1959, at age 55, Suzuki went to San Francisco. He has played a major role in popularizing Zen Buddhism in USA. Suzuki is the founder of the first Buddhist monastery outside Asia, named Tassajara Zen Mountain Center.