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Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind [Paperback]

Shunryu Suzuki , David Chadwick
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 28 2011
"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 spiritual 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.

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From Amazon

A respected Zen master in Japan and founder of the San Francisco Zen Center, Shunryu Suzuki has blazed a path in American Buddhism like few others. He is the master who climbs down from the pages of the koan books and answers your questions face to face. If not face to face, you can at least find the answers as recorded in Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, a transcription of juicy excerpts from his lectures. From diverse topics such as transience of the world, sudden enlightenment, and the nuts and bolts of meditation, Suzuki always returns to the idea of beginner's mind, a recognition that our original nature is our true nature. With beginner's mind, we dedicate ourselves to sincere practice, without the thought of gaining anything special. Day to day life becomes our Zen training, and we discover that "to study Buddhism is to study ourselves." And to know our true selves is to be enlightened. --Brian Bruya --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Library Journal

In one of the best and most succinct introductions to Zen practice, the important teacher Shunryu Suzuki discusses posture and breathing in meditation as well as selflessness, emptiness, and mindfulness.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Two Suzuki Zen Masters Feb. 7 2004
By A Customer
This book is, in fact, probably the very best introduction to Zen Buddhism for Americans. It is short, informal, yet well written.
Shunryu Suzuki, the author of this book, is not of the same school of Zen as D.T. Suzuki, who wrote many more books and is probably better known. Shunryu was of the Soto school of Zen, while D.T. belonged to the Rinzai school.
To the beginner, the differences might seem small. Both schools practice sitting meditation, called zazen. But Rinzai puts more emphasis on the experience of Satori, which I will not explain here (and is hardly explainable, anyhow). Soto Zen, and Shunryu in this book, emphasizes just sitting and practicing zazen. He does not dwell on Satori, in fact, I don't even think he mentions it.
In any event, I highly recommend this book as an introduction to Zen. Shunryu tells you about real Soto Zen practice -- not history, or theoretical concepts. It can be read in an evening, and can be re-read for years.
You can later proceed to other books on Zen; by D.T. Suzuki, Alan Watts, Christmas Humphreys, or others, including John C. H. Wu. Thich Nhat Hanh is very popular too, and has written many books. He is Vietnamese, while both of the Suzukis were Japanese. I believe that Nhat Hanh is of the Soto school, but I could be wrong. Most other authors should be avoided until you are more familiar with Zen. (Beware especially of the shallow, even flippant, Zen books, which usually begin with the words "Zen and the ..." They have little value.) Just remember that Zen Buddism has two main schools: Soto and Rinzai. Also, Zen is a special form of Buddhism -- kind of like Quakers being a special form of Christianity -- and is not necessarily representative of Buddishm as a whole.
Zen was heavily influenced by Taoism.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What is Buddhism? What is Zen? July 6 2004
By A Customer
This book will not answer either of those questions. Therefore it should get 0 stars. However, I think it deserves 5 stars.
Religious or philosophical traditions are among the most difficult to pass from one generation to the next without bollixing up the original spirit of the tradition. When Siddhartha experienced enlightenment 2500 years ago, did he envision all the crazy schizms, sects, misinterpretations, and frauds that would ensue as a result of his teachings? YES. But he decided to teach his experiences anyway.
To many, religion is all about dogma or exactly how to practice it. If you don't kneel correctly at the right time of day or cut a fart in the middle of silent meditation, then you are a permanent failure and can never achieve the perfection that your guru/god is trying to teach you.
Others abandon religion entirely, and say that you should reject any dogma that tells you what to believe and how to think. Organized religion is just a perpetual Multi-Level Marketing scheme, where the only way to be successful is to convince everyone else that you've found the truth and get them to pass it on. Evangelical Christianity is obviously the best example of this, but some people see elements of it in all religions, and they have a point.
Is there a middle ground? I think so, even though it's sooo easy to slip to one side or the other. My goal is to find inspiration in different traditions, understand and respect them, and also to explore the elements that I don't agree with (Judeo-Christian-Islamic fundamentalism, for example). What can I do to build a bridge between myself and people with these beliefs?
I find that reading works such as Zen Mind, Beginners Mind nurture that middle path.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 Stars for "Nothing Special?" You Bet. Feb. 23 2004
So much of religion is tedious and unnecessary theological exposition, clergymen and laypeople arguing over historical accounts or trying to decide whether adherents should be allowed to worship this or that. This kind of prosaic religion is not really religion at all because it is not directed toward that which is ultimately true and real. But Shunryu Suzuki, in an attempt to show us what it truly means to see and experience the world to our fullest potential, deftly side-steps almost everything that we normally associate with religion, including worship, philosophy, and moralizing. This is, of course, in the spirit of Buddhism and, in particular, Zen with its rigorous and practical emphasis on pure and simple meditation.
This book is a compilation of talks given by Suzuki to his American Zen students. While reading, I can just imagine the Zen master sitting there baffling every possible expectation that they had of their own practice. After all, you never know what a Zen master will say or do next and Suzuki is no exception. Most ironic is his ability to illogically defy logic and somehow come out on top every time. When confronted with the skeptic's hammer of reason, Suzuki counters with his Zen sledge-hammer, crushing the comparatively puny weapon of duality with his sweeping monistic blow. Actually, his is more of an empty blow--not really a blow at all. This naturalness is what makes Zen so appealing.
After finishing the book, I tried to sit and think of what I'd learned. What I found was that I couldn't really say anything. For anything that I could say about Zen is bound to be wrong. Suzuki does not offer philosophy or theology...he offers a way of life. I think, if I had to sum up his entire attitude, I would say "just sit." That is, just meditate.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book for Zen
This a great book for beginner who would like to learn Zen, and its price is well-reasonable.

The greatest book ever.
Published 4 months ago by Yue Wei
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Buddhist book ever.
This is my favorite Buddhist book. It has a lot of useful details. It helped me to understand zazen. You can feel the warmth of Shunryu Suzuki that transcends time and books. Read more
Published on June 19 2012 by Charles-G Paris
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Very good product, I got it very quickly and I am very happy with this purchase. I recommend it to anyone.
Published on March 16 2012 by Max
4.0 out of 5 stars Zen Mind Beginner's Mind
Good book. Exactly what I wanted. But then I already had a copy and purchased this to give as a gift. Regards,
Published on June 3 2011 by arnella1937
5.0 out of 5 stars Soto Zen explained with perfect simplicity
There are two major brands of Zen, the Soto (a.k.a. "gradual") and Rinzai (a.k.a. "sudden") schools. Read more
Published on July 4 2004 by "gourlie"
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Zen Book
As a Chinese artist in the West, I think this is the best Zen book I have read!!! It is a powerful weapon, which helps people realize the ultimate reality.
Published on July 1 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars This is not a "beginners" manual!
After reading several reviews where the reviewer got this mistaken impression from the title, I felt I had to say something. Read more
Published on June 7 2004 by stuartm
5.0 out of 5 stars THE BEST IN ZEN LITERATURE
filled with enlightening points and ideas to provoke thought and inspire meditation practice, Zen Mind, Beginners' Mind is the most effective book on zen I've ever read, and I've... Read more
Published on May 29 2004 by ERIC KAUFFMANN
2.0 out of 5 stars Kind of too Japanese
Although I know this is a classic, I'm not sure it works for the truly beginning practitioner, as you probably won't get most of it. Read more
Published on April 29 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book
After having read this book, I can say that I throughly enjoyed it. The style of writing is easy to follow, and often I would just sit and read loseing all track of time. Read more
Published on April 5 2004 by "liquidpophybrid"
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