Sunday, June 5, 2022

What I'm Reading: Feel-Good Book Two

When I picked up Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice from Open Books in Pensacola, I had no idea of the book's prominence. The publication came from talks given by Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki, compiled by Marian Derby and Trudy Dixon, and published in 1970. Only now, after some research, have I discovered it is one of the top 100 best spiritual books of the 20th century. My copy, beautifully printed in Hong Kong with a deep red frontispiece and unbelievably soft pages, is from 1994 and in its 32nd printing. To learn more about this classic, go to Zen Mind or check out the Wikipedia entry HERE

Some of the weighty chapters I read without completely comprehending, but I hope you feel the peace I felt as I sat at the feet of a kind and helpful teacher and let his gentle words play at the fringes of my mind.

On Waves: "When you try to stop your thinking, it means you are bothered by it. Do not be bothered by anything. It appears as if something comes from outside your mind, but actually it is only the waves of your mind, and if you are not bothered by the waves, gradually they will become calmer and calmer. ... You yourself make the waves in your mind."

On Character: "Just continue in your calm, ordinary practice and your character will be built up. If your mind is always busy, there will be no time to build, and you will not be successful, particularly if you work too hard on it."

On Enlightenment: "Dogen-zenji said, 'Do not think you will necessarily be aware of your own enlightenment.'" 

On Wisdom: "Wisdom is not something to learn. Wisdom is something which will come out of your mindfulness. So the point is to be ready for observing things, and to be ready for thinking. This is called emptiness of your mind. Emptiness is nothing but the practice of zazen."

On Practicing Meditation: "Zazen practice is the practice in which we resume our pure way of life, beyond any gaining idea, and beyond fame and profit. By practice we just keep our original nature as it is. There is no need to intellectualize about what our pure original nature is, because it is beyond our intellectual understanding. And there is no need to a appreciate it, because it is beyond our appreciation. So just to sit, without any idea of gain, and with the purest intention, to remain as quiet as our original nature--this is our practice."

On Peace: "The best way towards perfect composure is to forget everything. Then your mind is calm, and it is wide and clear enough to see and feel things as they are without any effort. The best way to find perfect composure is not to retain any idea of things, whatever they may be -- to forget all about them and not to leave any trace or shadow of thinking."

The wrap-up is another quote: "There is no need to remember what I say; there is no need to understand what I say. You understand; you have full understanding within yourself. There is no problem." Reading this book is like taking a long, deep breath. Yes, it's okay. We are here, alive in this moment, and it's okay. This reminds me of one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard, It's OK by Nightbirde.

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