Any “zennie” can list numerous quotes from Shunryu Suzuki Roshi and each one would be as penetrating as the last but the depth of his teaching seems to always allude me. In my early days of practice I came across a free copy of “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” online and attempted a reading. I mean, this is Shunryu Suzuki, right? Between he and D.T Suzuki, they defined Zen Buddhist practice for an entire generation of Buddhists in America. But the book didn’t speak to me. I didn’t feel it and I didn’t know why.
Now I do realize what wasn’t present when I first read Shunryu Suzuki … practice and experience. You need to bare your neck to read and digest these teachings. You need to be humbled before you pick it up and in order to be humbled you need to have practiced and have seen the wall. Until that point you think the wall is your entire world. Practice lets you peek over.
I originally thought that “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” was an instruction manual to Zen practice but it isn’t; it is a reflective journal of your practice up to this moment. It isn’t meant to teach you how to practice but how to relate to your practice. The goal of the book is to put you in the proper context in relation to your practice and your life. Suzuki Roshi was just slowly and consistently nudging you away from your self in these lectures and pages. Small, gentle prods that were meant to show you your self and let you laugh at it.
I’m picking it up again, this book. And I have what was missing before – a practice. Not failures or successes. Not wisdom and compassion. Not ignorance and greed. Just practice. Inherit in each of these aspects form the evolving whole of this practice and this life. This fear and this joy. These tears.
So if you haven’t read it in a while, try it again. Below are some lectures from Shunryu Suzuki that are equally stirring. But maybe you should sit first and then come back to them. I don’t know. You can listen to Shunryu Suzuki but to hear him you need to relate to the words … then maybe we can empty them of any meaning whatsoever.