Shunryu Suzuki

Japanese Buddhist missionary

Shunryu Suzuki (鈴木 俊隆 Suzuki Shunryū, dharma name Shogaku Shunryu) (18 May 19044 December 1971) was a Sōtō Zen monk and teacher who helped popularize Zen Buddhism in the United States, and is renowned for founding the first Zen Buddhist monastery outside Asia (Tassajara Zen Mountain Center). Suzuki founded San Francisco Zen Center which, along with its affiliate temples, comprises one of the most influential Zen organizations in the United States. A book of his teachings, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, is one of the most popular books on Zen and Buddhism in the West.

There are, strictly speaking, no enlightened people, there is only enlightened activity.

Quotes edit

Zazen practice is the direct expression of our true nature. Strictly speaking, for a human being, there is no other practice than this practice; there is no other way of life than this way of life.
  • What is true zazen? What do you mean by Zen becomes Zen and you become you? You become you is a very important point. You become you. When you become you, even though you are in bed, you may not be you most of the time. Even though you are sitting here, I wonder whether you are you in its true sense. So to be you is zazen.
  • So it is not a matter of whether it is possible to attain Buddhahood, or if it is possible to make a tile a jewel. But just to work, just to live in this world with this understanding is the most important point, and that is our practice. That is true zazen.
    • Lecture in Los Altos, CA (1 September 1967)
  • So I say, ‘Oh, I am sorry but soon you will see the bright sunrise every morning and beautiful sunset in the evening, every evening, but right now perhaps you…under your situation it may be impossible to see the beautiful sunset or bright sunrise, or beautiful flower in your garden, and it is impossible to take care of your garden, but soon you will see the beauty of the flowers and you will cut some flowers for your room.’ When you start to do this kind of thing you are alright. Don’t worry a bit. It means when you become you, yourself, and when you see things as they are, and when you become at one with your surrounding, in its true sense, there is true self.
    • Lecture in Los Altos, CA (1 September 1967)
  • Communication is — start by understanding — your own understanding about people. Even though you want them to understand you, you know, it is — unless you understand people, it is almost impossible. Don't you think so? Only when you understand people, they may understand you. So even though you do not say anything, if you understand people there is some communication.
  • When you do something, you should burn yourself completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.
    • Quoted in ''Enter the Heart of the Fire : A collection of Mystical Poems (1981) by Mary E. Giles and Kathryn Hohlwein
  • You may say you attained some stage in your practice. But that is just a trivial event in your long life. It is like saying the ocean is round, or like a jewel, or palace. For a hungry ghost the ocean is a pool of blood; for a dragon the ocean is a palace; for a fish it is his house; for a human being it is water. There must be various understandings. When the ocean is a palace, it is a palace. You cannot say it is not a palace. For a dragon it is actually a palace. If you laugh at a fish who says it is a palace, Buddha will laugh at you who say it is two o'clock, three o'clock. It is the same thing.
  • There are, strictly speaking, no enlightened people, there is only enlightened activity.
    • Quoted in Zen Millionaire : The Investor's Guide to the "Other Side" (2007) by Paul B. Farrell
    • Variant: Strictly speaking, there are no enlightened people, there is only enlightened activity.

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (1973) edit

  • In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's there are few.
    • Prologue
  • The true purpose of Zen is to see things as they are, to observe things as they are, and to let everything go as it goes. Zen practice is to open up our small mind.
    • Prologue
  • You should rather be grateful for the weeds you have in your mind, because eventually they will enrich your practice.
    • Pt. 1 : Right Practice "Mind Weeds", p. 26
  • Zazen practice is the direct expression of our true nature. Strictly speaking, for a human being, there is no other practice than this practice; there is no other way of life than this way of life.
    • Pt. 1 : Right Practice "The Marrow of Zen", p. 29
  • After you have practiced for a while, you will realize that it is not possible to make rapid, extraordinary progress. Even though you try very hard, the progress you make is always little by little. It is not like going out in a shower in which you know when you get wet. In a fog, you do not know you are getting wet, but as you keep walking you get wet little by little. If your mind has ideas of progress, you may say, "Oh, this pace is terrible!" But actually it is not. When you get wet in a fog it is very difficult to dry yourself. So there is no need to worry about progress.
    • Pt. 1 : Right Practice, "Bowing"
  • Practice does not mean that whatever you do, even lying down, is zazen. When the restrictions you have do not limit you, this is what we mean by practice….
    When you sit, you will sit. When you eat, you will eat…. If you say,”It doesn’t matter,” it means that you are making some excuse to do something in your own way with your small mind. It means that you are to some particular thing or way. That is not what we mean when we say, “Just to sit is enough,” or “Whatever you do is zazen.” Of course, everything you do is zazen, but if so, there is no need to say it.
    • p. 41
  • If you take pride in your attainment or become discouraged because of your idealistic effort, your practice will confine you by a thick wall.
    • Pt. 3 : Right Understanding, "Naturalness"
  • The purpose of studying Buddhism is not to study Buddhism but to study ourselves. You are not your body. You are the Big Activity. You are just expressing the smallest particle of the Big Activity. That is all. But when you become attached to a temporal expression of the Big Activity, it is time to talk about Buddhism.
    • Part 3, No. 3 "Study Yourself"
  • "The basic teaching of Buddhism is the teaching of transiency or change. That everything changes is the basic truth for each existence. No one can deny this truth and all teaching of Buddhism is condensed within it. This is the teaching for all of us. Wherever we go this teaching is true. This teaching is also understood as the teaching of selflessness. Because each existence is in constant change, there is no abiding self.
    • Part 4, No. 1. "Transiency"

Not Always So, practicing the true spirit of Zen (2002) edit

  • When we do not expect anything we can be ourselves. That is our way, to live fully in each moment of time.
    • Shikantaza: Living Fully In Each Moment (page 4)
  • It is a big mistake to think that the best way to express yourself is to do whatever you want, acting as you please. This is not expressing yourself. If you know what to do exactly, and you do it, then you can express yourself fully.
    • Express Yourself Fully (page 8)
  • All descriptions of reality are limited expressions of the world of emptiness. Yet we attach to the descriptions and think they are reality. That is a mistake.
    • Letters From Emptiness (page 33)
  • Instead of respecting things, we want to use them for ourselves and if it is difficult to use them, we want to conquer them.
    • Respect For Things (page 81)
  • Real Freedom is to not feel limited when wearing this Zen robe, this troublesome formal robe. Similarly, in our busy life we should wear this civilization without being bothered by it, without ignoring it, without being caught by it.
    • Not Always So (page 95)
  • Nothing we see or hear is perfect. But right there in the imperfection is perfect reality.
    • Wherever You Are, Enlightenment Is There (page127)

See also edit

External links edit

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