544 of 553 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 2000
This is a collection of talks by one of the first Zen teachers in the U.S. If you're already practicing Zen, I highly recommend this book. If you're new to Zen, you might love this book or you might find it largely incomprehensible, or maybe both. Suzuki makes liberal use of the paradoxical language that is typical of Zen--e.g., "For us, complete perfection is not different from imperfection. The eternal exists because of non-eternal existence." If you'd prefer a more ordinary, explanatory style, I recommend Charlotte Joko Beck's "Everyday Zen." If you're looking for practical instruction in Zen meditation, you'll find it in "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind," but you might prefer either Philip Kapleau's "The Three Pillars of Zen," which includes more detailed instructions and illustrations of sitting postures, or Cheri Huber's instructional video "The Secret Is There Are No Secrets."
When I first read "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind," for a college class on Buddhism, I wasn't quite sure what to make of it, but I did end up practicing Zen, and maybe this book had something to do with that. For many years, even while living at a Zen monastery, I suspected that a lot of the enthusiasm for this book was an "emperor's new clothes" phenomenon: a few respected people said it was wonderful, so then everybody said it was wonderful. I figured its aura of profundity was due in large part to Suzuki's congruence with our archetype of mountaintop gurus--the short sentences and limited English vocabulary, and the paradoxical language that sounds deep even though nobody actually knows what the heck it means. More recently, I've come to think that the emperor really does have clothes and that the big issues of human life are hard to talk about without paradox, and this is now one of my favorite Zen books.
247 of 273 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2007
I do not want to detract from this book's worth or wisdom in any way. No doubt the glowing reviews reflect the book's significance to the lives of those who have read and UNDERSTOOD it.
My only caveat is that for complete novices--like myself--the title is misleading, and therefore the book's teachings were not very accessible to me. The term "beginner's mind," as used in this work, refers to the idea of maintaining an open, childlike mind, and never acting or feeling as though one has ACHIEVED enlightenment. Be always searching, always growing.
"Beginner's mind" should NOT be taken as an indication that this is a book for those like myself who are newcomers to the study of Zen (i.e. "beginners"). Maybe you're an "old soul," but new to Zen, in which case, you may get more out of this book than I currently do.
As someone who instinctively feels that Zen has something BIG to offer me if only I can understand what the hell the books on Zen are talking about, this is NOT a good introduction. Zen terminology is thrown around as though I already know what the terms mean. The description of poses (without benefit of pictures) is confusing, and I must admit that I [shallowly?] found myself ticked off: if I couldn't figure out a stinking pose (or even get BEYOND the fact that I couldn't figure it out), how on earth was I "deep enough" to get my foot on the path to enlightenment?
For anyone who, like myself, needs something a little more concrete to get me started, something I can sink my literal Western teeth into, this ain't the book! I believe I personally need something a little less esoteric to start with, a book that bridges the gap between my VERY literal-minded Western upbringing and the much LESS literal mindset required of adherents of eastern religion/philosophy.
I also believe that if I am able to bridge that gap (using other resources), THEN I will be able to appreciate this book's teachings and will certainly come back to it.
115 of 125 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 1999
This book took me out of the maze of faith-based religion and for the first time I found a teacher and a philosophy with so much credibility I had the confidence to trust in the more esoteric aspects of a teaching that weren't initially obvious. Suzuki, and I assume Zen in general, has the wisdom and courage to acknowedge that there are things about our universe that we cannot comprehend and treat them as both beautiful and mysterious. This contrasts with faith-based religions which instruct us to accept notions of "gods" and elaborate tales for explanation and as such are a complete assault on and violation of the intellect. Zen outlook which does away with the largely western notions of right & wrong, past and future, and states of lack will put one squarely in the present tense from moment to moment. It is utterly refreshing and healthy to look at the universe through glasses which are not colored by human desire and ego. Read this book, gain an understanding of yourself, an appreciation for the universe as a whole and piece of mind. Namaste
100 of 109 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2001
ZEN MIND, BEGINNER'S MIND : Informal talks on Zen Meditation and practice by Shunryu Suzuki. Edited by Trudy Dixon, with a Preface by Huston Smith and an Introduction by Richard Baker. 138 pp. New York and Tokyo : Weatherhill, 1970 and Reprinted.
Some years ago I undertook a fairly extensive program of reading in Indian, Chinese, and Japanese Buddhism and in Zen. Most of my Zen books have since disappeared. Only the choicest remain, among which is Shunryu Suzuki's 'Zen Mind Beginner's Mind.'
Buddhism may be said to have begun with the enlightement of the Buddha. Many centuries later, however, when Buddhism entered China, an incredibly elaborate and complex superstructure of Indian scholastic thought had grown up around the Buddha's original insight. The Chinese, with their basically down-to-earth and common sense attitude, had little use for Indian over-elaboration and set about ridding Buddhism of it.
The Chinese, as Lin Yutang says, believe in a reasonable use of reason, and not in reason's excesses. The end product of their effort to rid Buddhist thought of its heavy freight of scholasticism, and to shift the emphasis from theory back to the practical by centering Buddhism once again in the enlightenment experience, became what the Chinese know as Ch'an and the Japanese as Zen.
As Shunryu Suzuki himself pointed out, when freed of unnecessary theory and speculation, Buddhism as Zen becomes something that is basically "quite simple" (page 64). Its essence was brilliantly captured in the thirty-one verses of Third Patriarch Seng-ts'an's 'Hsin-hsin-ming,' the very first Zen treatise in verse. This is a beautiful text that deserves to be far better known, and an easily accessible translation will be found in D. T. Suzuki's 'Manual of Zen Budhism' ('On Believing in Mind,' pages 76-82).
The first verse of the original Chinese may be read as follows, with oblique marks to indicate line breaks:
"To realize the Way is not difficult / If you'd only stop choosing; / Just let go of all of your hate, and love, / And everything will be brilliantly clear" (my transl).
This statement may gain in meaning if we set it alongside an observation made by the great Zen Master Dogen (1200-1253), founder of the Japanese Soto sect of Zen Buddhism and one of the most brilliant philosophical minds Buddhism has ever produced, who wrote in 'Genjo Koan,' the third chapter of his 'Shobogenzo' :
"Conveying the self to the myriad things to authenticate them is delusion; the myriad things advancing to authenticate the self is enlightenment" (Tr., F. H. Cook, 'Sounds of Valley Streams,' page 66).
Suzuki Shunryu, who as a member of the Soto school was a direct spiritual descendant of Dogen, would certainly have understood this. In fact, so far as I can see, the idea expressed by both Seng-ts'an and Dogen Zenji is at the very center of his book.
'Zen Mind Beginner's Mind' is a golden book that may be heartily recommended to all open-minded readers. In it they will find a Buddhism freed of all scholastic superfluities and unnecessary elaboration, and one that returns us to what the Buddha was really about.
138 of 153 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 2000
Anyone interested in reading this book should not be dissuaded by the negative rantings of the "humble monk" and "Dharma teacher", whose reviews appear to be from the same person. This book does not disappoint. I first read it over 25 years ago and I've fondly returned to it time and again since.
This book is intended as a look at 'Zen Mind', mind at one with Tao. The term 'Beginner's Mind' refers to the goal of always keeping our original beginner's mind in our practice. To awaken to this mind, Suzuki encourages the practice of Zazen, for when we take the Zazen posture we are at once aligned with The Buddha and all of the Patriarchs, we perfectly express our own Buddha nature. The act of sitting itself is the actualization of Buddha Nature or Being. This IS the practice of Zen.
Zen is a practice, not a religion and as thus can not be blasphemed in the way that the negative reviewer asserts. Religion is an attitude of devotion to something other than yourself which is regarded as worthy of supreme devotion. Zen Buddhism is not the worship of Buddha. Buddha taught the way to eliminate the cause of human suffering and conflict, the way to awakening. Zen is the means to that end.
To the Dharma teacher and "Zen monk", I quote Zen Master Dogen Zenji's Bendowa. "You look on the meditation of the Buddhas and the supreme law as just sitting and doing nothing. You disparage Mahayana Buddhism. Your delusion is deep; you are like someone in the middle of the ocean crying out for water. Fortunately we are already sitting at ease in the self-joyous meditation of the Buddhas. Isn't this a great boon? What a pity that your true-eye remains shut - that your mind remains drunk. The world of the Buddhas eludes ordinary thinking and consciousness. It cannot be known by disbelief and inferior knowledge. To enter one must have right belief. The disbeliever, even if taught, has trouble grasping it.... Your only purpose in reading the sutras should be to learn thoroughly that the Buddha taught the rules of gradual and sudden training and that by practicing his teachings you can obtain enlightenment. You should not read the sutras merely to pretend to wisdom through vain intellections.... While you look at words and phrases, the path of your training remains dark....Constant repetition of the Nembutsu is also worthless - like a frog in a spring field croaking night and day....Understand only this: if enlightened Zen masters and their earnest disciples correctly transmit the supreme law of the seven Buddhas, its essence emerges, and it can be experienced. Those who merely study the letters of the sutras cannot know this. So put a stop to this doubt and delusion. Follow the teachings of a real master and, by zazen; attain to the self-joyous samadhi of the Buddhas."
The Buddha himself said "This is itself the Way to Awakening".
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2001
Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
This was the first book on Zen I read some twenty years ago. To a westerner conditioned to experience one's perceptions through the filter of the mind, it was near incomprehensible at the time and it was only many years later, as I began to establish my sitting practice, that I was able to read Suzuki-Roshi's talks with benefit.
This book will probably make little sense to you if you do not practice zazen. If you are looking for an intellectual exposition of Buddhist thought, there are many other books that will better suit your purpose.
If you are looking for a how-to method for sitting practice, this book is also probably not the best place to start.
However, if you are looking for encouragement with your sitting practice, this book is what you are looking for. Suzuki-Roshi's gentle words will nudge you back onto the cushions and help you feel that there is some sense in what you are doing. His compassion shines through on every page.
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 2001
Whenever I've read books in the past, one of the things I've looked for has been intellectual satisfaction. In fact, it has almost been a necessity in order for me to appreciate a particular book. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind offered me little, if any, intellectual satisfaction and yet, I treasure it as one of the greatest books I've ever read. This book (or Buddhism for that matter) is not about intellectual, moral or even spiritual satisfaction. The practice presented in the book is a very matter-of-fact journey into yourself and your true nature.
If you are new to Buddhism however, I would not recommend this book as a starting point. I first picked up this book four years ago out of my curiosity for Zen Buddhism, found it to be really abstract and incomprehensible and it collected dust on my bookshelf for years. Last year, I decided to re-introduce myself to what Buddha taught through Steve Hagen's Buddhism Plain and Simple, and simultaneously started practicing at a local Zen center. I have since read Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind a couple of times and found it to be wisdom beyond wisdom. If you want to live each moment of your life fully, this book will undoubtedly be an invaluable tool.
40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2000
I luckily stumbled onto this little treasure while reading basketball coach phil jackson's "sacred hoops." in that book, jackson repeatedly referred to the teachings of zen master suzuki's teachings in this book. never could i have imagined that a book on sports could lead to such a dramatic, profound and truly life changing experience as i found when reading "zen mind, beginner's mind."
whereas faith based religions are a complete assualt on the intellect when providing answers to the secrets of the universe that are not known to us, suzuki instructs us to respect such things as both "mysterious and beautiful." important and fundamental concepts such as "non-attachment" that can be difficult to grasp are succinctly communicated in reminders such as "a weed grows even though we hate it, and a flower falls even though we love it." zen mind will place your focus squarely in the present and allow to rid yourself of state depriving emotions once you learn to let go of any "gaining" notions. you'll find focus and calm in all situations. (just like michael jordan and the chicago bulls whom coach jackson required zen-like meditation at the end of each practise!)
this book is so complete it's all you'll really ever need. and as the author implies "once you've got it, you've got it. no need to keep searching."
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 1999
I've reread this book cover-to-cover three times and referred to it countless others. Every rereading turns up wisdom I'd missed on the previous go rounds--because I wasn't ready to really hear it. It's this layered wisdom which makes Shunryu Suzuki's book one of the greatest spiritual books of the century (a small, informal survey of writers and "thinkers" in a recent issue of Shambala Sun found Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind as the most cited "Best Spiritual Book of the Century.") Keep this classic by your bedside and read a couple pages when you wake up each morning.
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2000
Zen Master Suzuki gives the most lucid exposition on practicing zen ever put on paper. The teachings are not watered down, sugar coated, or given false pretenses as the absolute truth. The chapter on meditation exemplifies all these qualities. To Suzuki, just the act of sitting zazen is meditation itself and as a consequence, enlightenment. No mention of mystical visions, long processes of clearing the mind and becoming "one with the universe" - his only instruction is to perceive simple reality. As a long time meditator, I have found Zen Master Suzuki's approach much more honest and fruitful than any of the methods that use various mediums(i.e. imagery, sounds) to facilitate meditation. The rest of the book constantly reaffirms this simple yet profound concept. Anyone interested in Zen Buddhism, out of spiritual or intellectual curiosity, should start here.