ZEN MIND, BEGINNER'S MIND: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice

by Shunryu Suzuki

Paperback, 1974

Call number

299 B5



Weatherhill (1974), Edition: 16th Printing, 138 pages


"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few."  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 Zen 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. It's a book to come back to time and time again as an inspiration to practice, and it is now available to a new generation of seekers in this fortieth anniversary edition, with a new afterword by Shunryu Suzuki's biographer, David Chadwick.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Ganeshaka
I don't know a great deal about Zen, but I know what I like. And i like this book. In fact I keep an extra copy or two to give away should the subject ever come up. There was a time when I'd read a chapter, and sit. There will no doubt come a time when i will do so again. I kinda think the book should be in hotel rooms instead of the Gideon Bible. Zen is basically pretty simple. Just five words. "Sit down and shut up." Or is it "Open up?" Somehow I sense the descent of a thousand wooden staffs on my shoulders as I ask "Enlighten me?"… (more)
LibraryThing member heidialice
A classic text instructing how to begin a meditation practice in the Zen tradition. Great for complete beginners, this includes careful steps and useful background.
LibraryThing member artg
Page 41: "Practice does not mean that whatever you do, even lying down is zazen."

Page 42: "When you sit, you should just sit without being disturbed by your painful legs or sleepiness. That is zazen. But at first it is difficult to accept things as they are. You will be annoyed by the feeling you have in your practice. When you can do everything, whether it is good or bad, without disturbance or without being annoyed by the feeling, that is actually what we mean by 'form is form and emptiness is emptiness'."

Page 43: "For the beginner, the practice needs great effort. ... You must be true to your own way until at last you actually come to the point where you see it is necessary to forget all about yourself. Until you come to this point, it is completely mistaken to think that whatever you do is Zen or that it does not matter whether you practice or not. But if you make your best effort just to continue your practice with your whole mind and body, without gaining ideas, then whatever you do will be true practice."

Page 107: "Because you think you have body or mind, you have lonely feelings, but when you realize that everything is just flashing into the vast universe, you become very strong and your existence becomes very meaningful."

Page 109: "To have nothing in your mind is naturalness. ... When you do something, you should be completely involved in it. You should devote yourself to it completely. Then you have nothing. So if there is no true emptiness in your activity, it is not natural."
… (more)
LibraryThing member Arctic-Stranger
"Beginner's Mind" has become something of phrase that now exists apart from its source, and Suzuki just STARTS with this, and quickly moves on, but then you realize you cannot get away from Beginner's Mind...nor does he.
LibraryThing member Ra.Aiyana
My favorite book ever. i found it while in Mexico, amongst a sparse shelf of English books. I'd had no luck with meditation prior, and this made it all make sense. I still practice and always will. My life changed as a result of this book.
LibraryThing member shawnd
This book was my first introduction into Buddhist writing. Perhaps unfortunately, I did not realize there was any difference of note between Zen Buddhism and Buddhism. Now having read a few Buddhist authors - His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh - I can say this book is quite unique. In a word, it can be summed up as focus. The book has a precise and inexorable return to the main topic which is 'zazen' - the practice of meditation.

The book is broken up into themes. In each theme, e.g. Constancy, Study Yourself, Zen and Excitement, there is some talk of daily life and how we suffer or float through daily events. Invariably, more time is spent in how the theme relates to sitting/meditation practice. Some of the quotes are quaint and memorable, and perhaps inspiring. For example, "For a frog, his sitting position is zazen. When a frog is hopping, that is not zazen."

Overall, I'd say this should not be read by a beginner, regardless of the title. It is very good for readers focused on either the concept or practice of discipline, or focused on meditation. I wouldn't say it compares as much to contemporary Buddhist writings. It is unique and probably a good solid read, but unlikely that one would return to it as a daily inspirational.
… (more)
LibraryThing member amandrake
I think this is one of the most approachable books about za-zen (sitting practice) ever. I would recommend it to a beginner (I'm disagreeing with another reviewer, here.) That said, I have to admit that some of the more recent stuff doesn't appeal to me. This one keeps the woo to a minimum, and I find that increases its clarity.… (more)
LibraryThing member bobshackleton
Easily the most influential book in my life.
LibraryThing member HezPez
This book can be life changing if you have any interest in practicing zazen.
LibraryThing member hermit
You must remember that this book contains Shunryu's lecture, which were presented live. That in and of itself would be a great experience. Since we could not all be there, this book is our method to sharing some of his teachings. The lectures go over the description of the sitting Zen experience. You, the Zen student, will constantly refer to this book. This book will not gather dust on your shelf.
If you are a beginner, I would direct you to read the "Three Pillars of Zen" first. It was my first book (See my review), and it teaches Zen in a historical and traditional light.
… (more)
LibraryThing member jbushnell
An excellent series of introductory lectures.
LibraryThing member aegossman
this is a book you need to read with a sponge... it is so awesome.
LibraryThing member ddzimmerman
I often return to the title of this work when I think about teaching and how important it is for teachers to be able to have "beginner's mind" once in a while so we can understand the learning process....
LibraryThing member joeld
This is one of those books that will meet you pretty much wherever you are at. Although there is much in the author's style that could lend itself to parody, it's an appreciation of simplicity that deserves to be taken seriously even if (like myself) you're a Christian. Zazen is really no more concerned with theology than is the color you paint your room (or at least, it need not be). I feel that in many ways this book has made Christ's teachings even more alive for me, as well as providing a rich framework for imaginative pursuits. I highly recommend getting the audiobook version.… (more)
LibraryThing member mariusgm

Before we were born we had no feeling; we were one with the universe. This is called "mind-only," or "essence of mind," or "big mind," After we are separated by birth from this oneness, as the water falling from the waterfall is separated by the wind and rocks, then we have feeling. You have difficulty because you have feeling. You attach to the feeling you have without knowing just how this kind of feeling is created. When you do not realize that you are one with the river, or one with the universe, you have fear. Whether it is separated into drops or not, water is water. Our life and death are the same thing. When we realize this fact we have no fear of death anymore, and we have no actual difficulty in our life. … (more)
LibraryThing member Michael.Bradham
Sparked my transformative journey towards progressive relaxation and awareness. Thank you.
LibraryThing member James_Patrick_Joyce
This was the audio version with Peter Coyote. Man, but he's perfect for reading Zen literature.

What do you need from me? It's a classic. Suzuki is classic. Coyote is perfect. Read it, listen to it, be it.

Or something like that.
LibraryThing member eldang
I really did take three years reading this - one short lecture at a time. I feel I have a somewhat better understanding of what Zen Buddhism is about, which is probably the most one can ask of a book about a tradition that isn't really mine.

One theme that really struck a chord is that there isn't a distinct compartment into which one puts "practice" or "spirituality", any more than there is for "morality" or even "breathing" - to take these things seriously to make them a ubiquitous part of life. I often need reminding of this.… (more)
LibraryThing member Pepperwings
A fantastic, simple, analogical look into how to live in a method of Zen. It spends less time explaining than you might expect, and shows with humorous stories, a little like parables, but with the goal of opening understanding. I appreciated how this all came together, and I think many would agree, though it might take some other reading to understand better.… (more)
LibraryThing member willszal
Live in the moment.
LibraryThing member eldang
I really did take three years reading this - one short lecture at a time. I feel I have a somewhat better understanding of what Zen Buddhism is about, which is probably the most one can ask of a book about a tradition that isn't really mine.

One theme that really struck a chord is that there isn't a distinct compartment into which one puts "practice" or "spirituality", any more than there is for "morality" or even "breathing" - to take these things seriously to make them a ubiquitous part of life. I often need reminding of this.… (more)
LibraryThing member beatgammit
I liked this quote:

"Those who are practicing actually do not feel anything... When we hear the sound of the pine trees on a windy day, perhaps the wind is just blowing, and the pine tree is just standing in the wind. This is all that they are doing. But the people who listen to the wind in the tree will write a poem, or will feel something unusual. That is, I think, the way everything is."

I'm not Buddhist, and I don't think I'll ever become Buddhist, but this passage really spoke to me about the meaning of Zen. Shunryu Suzuki gave a lot of (frankly confusing) information about what it is to be Zen (or be in zazen), but really shied away from the why, which he justified quite eloquently as distracting. However, those of us who don't subscribe to the Buddhist religion need something.

For me, this means that zazen will help me even when I can't observe that it's helping beyond calming my mind, and for me this is enough to give it a shot. I want to better myself, and making a conscious effort doesn't seem to always work, so perhaps I need to calm my inner nature to make changes that I cannot see from my perspective.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Schneider
A fantastic book for those interested in Zen and where to begin, how to begin, what to expect and what not to. A guide in the true sense of the word. Though quite philosophically deep in places, it is a book that almost everyone can enjoy.
LibraryThing member pmtracy
Written in the '70s, it's a collection of informal talks on the ideals around Zen mediation and practice. It's not meant to be instructional, instead it's an overview of the Zen mindset; Right Practice, Right Attitude and Right Understanding. The text is full of contradictions but I think that's by design. I'll definitely need to read this three or four more times before I get the full value. The big take-away for now is "to live in each moment means to be the Buddha."… (more)
LibraryThing member dbsovereign
One of the books that helped launch a revolution in America. Suzuki, almost single-handedly, was responsible for setting up the first Zen monastery in the USA. The book I recommend anyone not familiar with Zen to read - and the book I recommend to people as being the most accessible. "Our life and death are the same thing. When we realize this fact, we have no fear of death anymore, nor actual difficulty in our life." The section (from which that quote is taken) entitled "Nirvana, the Waterfall" inspires me to no end.… (more)




0834800799 / 9780834800793
Page: 0.2574 seconds