Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Shunryu Suzuki, also Daisetsu Teitaro or D.T. Suzuki or Suzuki-Roshi

Zen Scholar, Author, Teacher, Zen Master (roshi)

"The world is its own magic."

"In Buddhist Emptiness there is no time, no space, no becoming, no-thing-ness; it is what makes all these things possible; it is a zero full of infinite possibilities, it is a void of inexhaustible contents."

"When you understand one thing through and through, you understand everything."

"Zen in its essence is the art of seeing into the nature of one’s being, and it points the way from bondage to freedom."

"Reality must be grasped in this world for it is that ‘Beyond which is also Within.’"

"If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few."

"Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine."

"We must have beginner's mind, free from possessing anything, a mind that knows everything is in flowing change. Nothing exists except momentarily in its present form and color. One thing flows into another and cannot be grasped."

"Life is like stepping out onto a boat which is about to sail out to sea and sink."

"When one’s mind is religiously awakened, one feels as though in every blade of wild fern and solid stone there is something really transcending all human feelings, something which lifts one to be a real equal to that of heaven. He plunges himself into the very source of creativity and there drinks from life all that life has to give. He not only sees by taking a look, but he enters into the source of things and knows them at the point where life receives its existence."

"The value of human life lies in the fact of suffering, for where there is no suffering, no consciousness of karmic bondage, there will be no power of attaining spiritual experience and thereby reaching the field of non-distinction. Unless we agree to suffer we cannot be free from suffering."

"The ultimate standpoint of Zen, therefore, is that we have been led astray through ignorance to find a split in our being, that there was from the very beginning no need for a struggle between the finite and the infinite, that the peace we are seeking so eagerly after has been there all the time."

"To Zen, time and eternity are one."

"When you try to understand everything, you will not understand anything. The best way is to understand yourself, and then you will understand everything."

"We can think of the soul not as an entity but as a principle. We can conceive of the soul as not entering into a body already in existence and ready to receive the soul, but as creating a body for its own habitation. Instead of form or structure determining function, we can take function as determining form. In this case, the soul comes first and the body is constructed by it."

"The event of creation did not take place so many kalpas or eons ago, astronomically or biologically speaking. Creation is taking place every moment of our lives."

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few."

"The conception of time as an objective blank in which particularly events… succeed one after another has completely been discarded. The Buddha… knows no time-continuity; the past and the future are both rolled up into this present moment of illumination."

"[Enlightenment is] becoming conscious of the Unconscious."

"Without accepting the fact that everything changes, we cannot find perfect composure. But unfortunately, although it is true, it is difficult for us to accept it. Because we cannot accept the truth of transience, we suffer."

"A person who falls on earth, stumbling on a stone, will stand up by means of the same earth they fell on. You complain because you think earth is the problem, having caused your fall. Without the earth, you wouldn't fall, but you wouldn't stand up either. Falling and standing up are both great aids given to you by the earth. Because of mother earth you can continue your practice. You are practicing in the zendo of the great earth, which is the problem. Problems are actually your zendo. (zendo=place of meditation) In reflecting on our problems, we should include ourselves. In [meditation] leave your front door and back door open. Let thoughts come and go. Just don't serve them tea."

"A garden is never finished."

"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."

"A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thoughts. So he loses touch with reality, and lives in a world of illusions."

"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."

"Art always has something of the unconscious about it."

"All of you are perfect just as you are and you could use a little improvement."

"As soon as you see something, you already start to intellectualize it. As soon as you intellectualize something, it is no longer what you saw."

"Almost all people are carrying a big board, so they cannot see the other side. They think they are just the ordinary mind, but if they take the board off they will understand, Oh, I am Buddha, too. How can I be both Buddha and ordinary mind? It is amazing! That is enlightenment."

"At high noon or in the dark moonless night there is a light. Can you see it? And, by the way, who are you?"

"As Dogen says, people like what is not true and they don't like what is true."

"Because we put emphasis on some particular point, we always have trouble. We should accept things just as they are. This is how we understand everything, and how we live in this world. This kind of experience is something beyond our thinking. In the thinking realm there is a difference between oneness and variety; but in actual experience, variety and unity are the same. Because you create some idea of unity or variety, you are caught by the idea. And you have to continue the endless thinking, although actually there is no need to think."

"Before the rain stops we can hear a bird. Even under the heavy snow we can see snowdrops and some new growth."

"Be humble: In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few."

"Buddha is always helping you. But usually we refuse Buddha's offer. For instance, sometimes you ask for something special. This means that you are refusing to accept the treasures you already have. You are like a pig. When I was young, as my father was very poor, he raised many pigs. I noticed that when I gave the pigs a bucket of food, they would eat it after I went away. As long as I was there, they wouldn't eat it, expecting me to give them more food. I had to be very careful. If I moved too quickly they would kick the bucket over. I think that is what you are doing. Just to cause yourself more problems, you seek for something. But there is no need for you to seek for anything. You have plenty, and you have just enough problems. This is a mysterious thing, you know, the mystery of life. We have just enough problems, not too many or too few."

"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."

"Do you know the story of the true dragon? In ancient China, there was a person who liked dragons very much. He talked about dragons to his friends, and he painted dragons, and he bought various kinds of dragon sculptures. Then a dragon said to himself, If a real dragon like me visited him, he would be very happy. One day the real dragon sneaked into his room. The man didn't know what to do! Whaaaah! He could not run away. He could not even stand up. Whaaaah! For a long, long time we have been like him. That should not be our attitude. We should not be just a fan of dragons; we should always be the dragon himself. Then we will not be afraid of any dragon."

"Buddhism is transmitted from warm hand to warm hand."

"Don't kill is a dead precept. Excuse me is an actual working precept."

"Ego is a social institution with no physical reality. The ego is simply your symbol of yourself."

"Each of you is perfect the way you are ... and you can use a little improvement."

"Emotionally we have many problems; they are something created; they are problems pointed out by our self-centered ideas or views. Because we point out something, there are problems. But actually it is not possible to point out anything in particular. Happiness is sorrow; sorrow is happiness. Even though the ways we feel are different, they are not really different; in essence they are the same. This is the true understanding; transmitted from Buddha to us."

"Emptiness which is conceptually liable to be mistaken for sheer nothingness is in fact the reservoir of infinite possibilities."

"Encouraged by trumpets, guns, and war cries, it is quite easy to die. That kind of practice is not our practice."

"Enlightenment is like everyday consciousness but two inches above the ground."

"Enjoy your problems."

"Enlightenment is not a complete remedy."

"Everything is perfect, but there is a lot of room for improvement."

"Enlightenment is not any particular stage that you attain."

"Even though you try to put people under control, it is impossible. You cannot do it. The best way to control people is to encourage them to be mischievous. Then they will be in control in a wider sense. To give your sheep or cow a large spacious meadow is the way to control him. So it is with people: first let them do what they want, and watch them. This is the best policy. To ignore them is not good. That is the worst policy. The second worst is trying to control them. The best one is to watch them, just to watch them, without trying to control them."