AN INTRODUCTION TO ZEN BUDDHISM: D. T. SUZUKI

What I like about the Zen practice is that it brings attention to something that is always there - the free, quiet and sufficient mind. In today’s busy, complex and anxiety-inducing landscape, Zen feels as relevant today as it did during its ancient origins.

This book is one of the two books that I’d recommend to people interested in the Zen practice. The other is The Way Of Zen: Alan Watts.

To help you get started, here’s the .pdf version: An Introduction to Zen Buddhism.

I’ve listed a few good excerpts from the book:

What is Zen?

Yuan-we:

Look into your own being and seek it not through others. Your own mind is above all forms; it is free and quiet and sufficient. It eternally stamps itself in your six senses and four elements.

Hush the dualism of subject and object, forget both, transcend the intellect, serve yourself from the understanding, and directly penetrate deep into the identity of the Buddha-mind; outside of this there are no realities.

When the mind is disturbed, the understanding is stirred, things are recognised, notions are entertained, prejudices are rampant. Zen will then forever be lost in the maze

Putting your simple faith in this, discipline yourself accordingly; let your body and mind be turned into an inanimate object of nature like a stone or a piece of wood when a state of perfect motionlessness and unawareness is obtained all the signs of life will depart and also every trace of limitation will vanish. Not a single idea will disturb your consciousness, when lo! all of a sudden you will come to realise a light abounding in full gladness.

Your very existence has been delivered from all limitations; you have become open, light, and transparent. You gain an illuminating insight into the very nature of things, which now appear to you as so many fairylike flowers having no graspable realities.

Is Zen Illogical?

In Logic, there is a trace of effort and pain; logic is self-conscious. So is ethics, which is the application of logic to the facts of life. An ethical man performs acts of service which are praiseworthy, but he is all the time conscious of them, and, moreover, he may often be thinking of some future reward. Hence we should say that his mind is tainted and not at all pure, however objectively or socially good his deeds are. Life is an art, and like perfrect art is should be self-forgetting; there ought not to be any trace of effort or painful feeling. Life, according to Zen, ought to be lived as a bird flies through the air or as a fish swims in the water. As soon as there are signs of elaboration, a man is doomed, he is no more a free being. You are not living as you ought to live, you are suffering under the tyranny of circumstances; you are feeling a constraint of some sort, and you lose your independence. Zen aims at preserving your vitality, your native freedom, and above all the completeness of your being.

Practical Zen

Zen is not following one’s natural bent without questioning its origin and value. There is a great difference between human action and that of the animals, which are lacking in moral intuition annd religious consciousness.

“When I am hungry I eat, when tired I sleep.”

“This is what everybody does; can they be said to be exercising themselves in the same way as you do?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because when they eat they do not eat, but are thinking of various other things, thereby allowing themselves to be disturbed; when they sleep they do not sleep, but dream of a thousand and one things. This is why they are not like myself.”

Satori, or Acquiring a New Viewpoint

Zen is your every day “thought”. It all depends on the adjustment of the hinge whether the door opens in or opens out.

End

Taking it all in all, Zen is emphatically a matter of personal experience; if anything can be called radically, empirical, it is Zen. No amount of reading, no amount of teaching, no amount of contemplation will ever make one a Zen master. Life itself must be grasped amidst its flow; to stop it for examination and analysis is to kill it, leaving its cold corpse to be embraced.

Photo: “It was in this decisive moment that I started to wonder if I was being creepy.”