In this week's Inquiry, I spoke about renewal. It is Spring and the Texas wildflowers are beginning to come forth in profusion. Everything is green and lush. The theme for our recent Intensive at Appamada was "Seasons of Practice," so I have been continuing to reflect on the seasons in my own practice. I was also asked to deliver the Sunday sermon at Wildflower Unitarian Church a few weeks ago. There I spoke of simplicity. I was asked to bring a reading so this is what is copied below, an edited piece drawn from several chapters of the classic Zen Mind Beginners Mind by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. There is much to contemplate here so I offer it for your reflection. The Inquiry recording (see below if you are reading this on the blog) includes the teachings that emerged and the immediacy of the questions that were met.
From Zen Mind Beginners Mind:
From Zen Mind Beginners Mind:
People say that practicing Zen is difficult, but there is a misunderstanding as to why. It is not difficult because it is hard to sit in the cross-legged position, or to attain enlightenment. It is difficult because it is hard to keep our mind pure and our practice pure in its fundamental sense.
In Japan we have the phrase shoshin, which means “beginner's mind." The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner's mind… Our "original mind" includes everything within itself. It is always rich and sufficient within itself. You should not lose your self-sufficient state of mind. This does not mean a closed mind, but actually an empty mind and a ready mind. If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few…
I discovered that it is necessary, absolutely necessary, to believe in nothing. That is, we have to believe in something which has no form and no color—something which exists before all forms and colors appear. This is a very important point. No matter what god or doctrine you believe in, if you become attached to it, your belief will be based more or less on a self-centered idea… So it is absolutely necessary for everyone to believe in nothing. But I do not mean voidness. There is something, but that something is something which is always prepared for taking some particular form, and it has some rules, or theory, or truth in its activity. This is called Buddha nature, or Buddha himself. When this existence is personified we call it Buddha; when we understand it as the ultimate truth we call it Dharma; and when we accept the truth and act as a part of the Buddha, or according to the theory, we call ourselves Sangha. But even though there are three Buddha forms, it is one existence which has no form or color, and it is always ready to take form and color. This is not just theory. This is not just the teaching of Buddhism. This is the absolutely necessary understanding of our life. Without this understanding our religion will not help us. We will be bound by our religion, and we will have more trouble because of it…
So the most difficult thing is always to keep your beginner’s mind. There is no need to have a deep understanding of Zen. Even though you read much Zen literature, you must read each sentence with a fresh mind. You should not say, "I know what Zen is," or "I have attained enlightenment.” This is also the real secret of the arts: always be a beginner. Be very very careful about this point. If you start to practice zazen, you will begin to appreciate your beginner's mind. It is the secret of Zen practice.