Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.98 shipping
+ $3.97 shipping
Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice Unknown Binding – January 1, 2000
The Amazon Book Review
Book recommendations, author interviews, editors' picks, and more. Read it now
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Frequently bought together
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
My wife loaned me the book _Zen Mind, Beginner Mind_ by Shinryu Suzuki. It is only 130 pages or so, but the content is pretty dense, so it goes slowly. I will, in this text, give some of my thoughts on the book. One caution is that I read a couple other mindfulness books while I was working my way through this one, so I may be inexact about where my impressions arose for sure.
Early on in the book, S. describes the proper posture for meditation in his Zazen community, the broadness or narrowness of which I could offer no opinion. The rules for how to sit seem oppressive to someone not used to just sitting. I find it easiest to enjoy being mindful when on a pleasant walk, but I do know how to calm my mind sitting as well. But I decided to try the more formal rules, and I think it is good, although it is simply harder to make yourself do it. And full lotus position is quite painful. I cannot hold it much longer than ten minutes, and sitting in half lotus I can go for as much as 20. Mr. Shinryu reminds much through the text that you should not get fixated on some gaining activity like how long you can meditate, so I realize I should not focus on that and do try not to. I log it as an interesting fact not a number to be surpassed.
But the formal meditations I did sitting under his rules did result in a very calm mind and at least a sense of what big mind must be. It is interesting that later in the book S. talks about rules in a way that made me infer, although I am not strictly sure that he came out and said it, that the small mind requires rules to calm itself. You are helping your practice if there are some rules you will stick to no matter how inconvenient. It gives your small mind something to do so it calms itself and you can feel the silence.
I have to say that I liked the book quite a bit and will likely reread it. It clearly made some sort of impression on my wife. As I said, it is slow going. As an atheist materialist, I have to adopt a very friendly reading attitude in order to not just say, "Oh this is bs," and wander off to some superior ego distraction. Let me give you an example below.
Somewhere relatively near the end of the book, Suzuki says something like, "Some say you need to look through water to see a fish. But the truth is that if you have seen water you have already seen the fish." Ok, that, as I said is a paraphrase and not a quote. But it captures the essence of what I took away from his statement. Of course the statement is bald nonsense standing on its own as a fact. It is simply false. But to read this fairly I do several things. I assume he is either speaking metaphorically or that there is something about the results of his practice that I just do not understand. I try to assume he means something sensible one way or the other even if I am not sure what. Then I remember that he often reminds you not to get caught up by concepts, as a theory is just a gaining activity that will ultimately distract from your practice. One of the cool things that I am pretty sure he said (although it could have been in _the miracle of mindfulness_) was, "Do not follow after your thoughts as if you are their shadow". That is a pretty funny thing to say, and all you can is realize how right he is. Don't do it.
Anyhow back to fish. In the book Suzuki makes it quite clear that his brand of Zen is very interested in the appearance of things in the phenomenal world. They consider them all the same. Not just water and fish, but rocks and wedding cakes, and neutron stars and bunnies. All the same thing. BS right? Yeah, but contemplating the fish being water thing while standing and watching wave after wave of blackbird settle down into the trees behind our house led me to think a thing or two.
Of course we nerds all know that we are star stuff. Stars collapsed and started burning the only element that existed, that being hydrogen. After millions of years, they died after having forged some of the heavier elements in their nuclear furnaces. Those heavier elements spewed throughout space and fell into the accreting planets. They joined the dance of tectonics and eventually a new thing appeared. Self-replicating matter. Life.
So as I said, nerds know all this, but it always starts with the stars, but really, the common thing is even before that. There is a precept that determines all that is. Many want to imagine that it is God, but science is not looking there. It is looking at the math. Some mathematical thing made all of this whether it is self-existent or not, that seems true. And if you believe that, then why is it not at least poetically the same exact thing. We are the inevitable expressions of this mathematical thing. And I think that maybe while telling me not to fixate on the idea, Suzuki might very well be willing to accept assertion that this magical thing could precisely be considered "Buddha Nature". Why not? It determines what enters into the phenomenal world and how and why. Everything that is is a direct expression of the math.
So back to fish. With this idea of the single law of the universe in my mind it is not all that odd to think that perhaps it is interesting to think of fish and water as the same thing. I had already admitted that in the Grand Unified Theory sense they really were the same thing. I get that a fish cannot exist without water, but certainly water can exist without fish, right? Well, maybe not. Perhaps the fact that the fine structure constant is what it is means that what makes water water inevitably leads to self-replicating molecules, and hence to, well, fish. Maybe water cannot exist without fish. Of course there can be water that has no fish in it, but my point is that if water exists in the universe fish will as well, at least somewhere, at least eventually.
Thinking these thoughts while watching the flashing masses of what must have been ten thousand blackbirds and while attempting to do so mindfully, although admittedly intoxicated, I realized that the poetic thought that birds and air are the same thing was certainly quite pleasant. And watching the air enjoying itself so much in such fragmented splendor is what inspired all the thinking about how it seems for me that these Zen sayings are best looked at as poetic pointers to the math. Ya' think? Meh. It is a pleasant thing to ponder. Is it really useful? Is there some merit in me thinking that the exact thing that wrote the strata of the Grand Canyon is the same thing that wrote me into me.
If it is all the same, then it is all me, and what matter the small part of me that identifies himself as me? If that part ends there is still infinite me in existence. That is if you find poetry that points at math useful. I do not know if I do or not. Can a belief that the nature that creates the phenomenal world is the Buddha nature and that you are it and it is you really be a help in the face of death. I suspect there are many Buddhists that would say yes, but I remain skeptical.
Top international reviews
Clearly defined chapters and understandings