So begins this most beloved of all American Zen books. Seldom has such a small handful of words provided a teaching as rich as has this famous opening line. In a single stroke, the simple sentence cuts through the pervasive tendency students have of getting so close to Zen as to completely miss what it’s all about. An instant teaching on the first page. And that’s just the beginning.
In the forty years since its original publication, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind has become one of the great modern spiritual classics, much beloved, much reread, and much recommended as the best first book to read on Zen. Suzuki Roshi presents the basics—from the details of posture and breathing in zazen to the perception of nonduality—in a way that is not only remarkably clear, but that also resonates with the joy of insight from the first to the last page.
A respected Zen master in Japan and founder of the San Francisco Zen Center, Shunryu Suzuki has blazed a path in American Buddhism like few others. He is the master who climbs down from the pages of the koan books and answers your questions face to face. If not face to face, you can at least find the answers as recorded in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, a transcription of juicy excerpts from his lectures. From diverse topics such as transience of the world, sudden enlightenment, and the nuts and bolts of meditation, Suzuki always returns to the idea of beginner’s mind, a recognition that our original nature is our true nature. With beginner’s mind, we dedicate ourselves to sincere practice, without the thought of gaining anything special. Day to day life becomes our Zen training, and we discover that “to study Buddhism is to study ourselves.” And to know our true selves is to be enlightened. —Brian Bruya