Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Zen

"Zen is the unsymbolism of the world." - R. H. Blyth, fully Reginald Horace Blyth

"The purpose of Zen is the perfection of character." - Yamada Koun Zenshin, or Koun Yamada or Yamada Roshi

"To teach Zen means to unteach; to see life steadily and see it whole, the answer not being divided from the question; no parrying, dodging, countering, solving, changing the words; an activity which is a physical and spiritual unity with All-Activity." - R. H. Blyth, fully Reginald Horace Blyth

"What is Zen in the art of helping? It is easier to say what it is not than more positively to describe the essence. It is to avoid the boosting of the ego through ‘good works’. It is to aid oneself and others in the pursuit of the good life; to discover and uncover new vigour and freshness in the art of living; to uncover the primal ability of love. Living in the here and now is a major ingredient." - David A. Brandon

"The Zen ways and arts draw a bridge from real artistic creation in painting, architecture, poetry) to artistic skills like flower arrangement and gardening, and ultimately to all of everyday life. The religious is found in the everyday, the sacred in the profane; indeed the everyday is religious, the profane is sacred." - Heinrich Dumoulin

"Zen is a way of liberation, concerned not with discovering what is good or bad or advantageous, but what is." - Alan Watts, fully Alan Wilson Watts

"Zen meditation does not mean sitting and thinking. On the contrary, it means acting with as little thought as possible. The fencing master trained his pupil to guard against every attack with the same immediate, instinctive rapidity with which our eyelid closes over our eye when something threatens it. His work is aimed at breaking down the wall between thought and act, at completely fusing body and senses and mind so that they might all work together rapidly and effortlessly." - Gilbert Arthur Highet

"The Sermon on the Mount has (and very justly I believe) been compared to Zen in that it describes the undifferentiated consciousness of one who lives in the here-and-now with joy and without care." - William Johnston

"The existentialist insight, in part, is that meaning is something we give to life. We do not find meaning so much as throw ourselves at it. The Zen insight, in part, is that worrying about meaning may itself make life less meaningful than it might have been. Part of the virtue of the Zen attitude lies in learning to not need to be busy: learning there is joy and meaning and peace in simply being mindful, not needing to change or be changed. Let the moment mean what it will." - David Schmidtz

"The Zen attitude is that meaning isn’t something to be sought. Meaning comes to us, or not. If it comes, we accept it. If not, we accept that too." - David Schmidtz

"There is a striking parallelism between science and religion on this point. It is my conviction that that other world is anchored in eternity and the eternal is different from everlasting. Everlasting goes on forever with changes, but eternity is beyond time. It includes time, but is beyond time. The second thing this other world is anchored in is spirit rather than matter, the matrixes of space-time and matter it is not subject to. The third thing is that it is perfect. Those points all converge on a mathematical point, which exceeds our capacity of our left brain to put into words, so it cannot be adequately articulated. Our articulations can be, as a Zen monk would say, fingers pointing toward it at the moon." -

"When a rebel army took over a Korean town, all fled the Zen temple except the abbot. The rebel general burst into the temple, and was incensed to find that the master refused to greet him, let alone receive him as a conqueror. “Don’t you know,” shouted the general, “that you are looking at one who can run you through without batting an eye?” “And you,” said the abbot, “are looking at one who can be run through without batting an eye.” The general’s scowl turned into a smile. He bowed low and left the temple." - Lucien Stryk, Takashi Ikemoto and Taigan Takayama

"To become conscious of what is unconscious and thus to enlarge one's consciousness means to get in touch with reality, and - in this sense - with truth (intellect-ually and affectively). To enlarge consciousness means to wake up, to lift a veil, to leave the cave, to bring light into the darkness. Could this be the same experience Zen Buddhists call "enlightenment?"" -

"When you rob a person of his pain and suffering, you rob him of his life, his freedom, his independence; you keep him dependent on you; This is a trap for therapists and healers and Zen teachers, too." - Dennis Genpo Merzel, aka Genpo Merzel Roshi

"[Zen] is not a kind of “self-actualization,” an expansion of the limited, isolated Me, of the empirical ego. Neither is it a regression, a return into that vegetative ooze of Oneness, before we became aware of our differentiation as separate egos. On the contrary, the Zen experience is the overcoming of the hallucination that the Me is the valid center of observation of the universe. It is a momentary, radical turnabout, a direct perception of and insight into the presence, into the transiency, the finitude that I share with all beings." - Frederick Franck

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

"Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine." - Shunryu Suzuki, also Daisetsu Teitaro or D.T. Suzuki or Suzuki-Roshi

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

"A zen master's life is one continuous mistake." -

"To become conscious of what is unconscious and thus to enlarge one's consciousness means to get in touch with reality, and - in this sense - with truth (intellect-ually and affectively). To enlarge consciousness means to wake up, to lift a veil, to leave the cave, to bring light into the darkness. Could this be the same experience Zen Buddhists call "enlightenment?"" - Erich Fromm, fully Erich Seligmann Fromm

"There is a striking parallelism between science and religion on this point. It is my conviction that that other world is anchored in eternity and the eternal is different from everlasting. Everlasting goes on forever with changes, but eternity is beyond time. It includes time, but is beyond time. The second thing this other world is anchored in is spirit rather than matter, the matrixes of space-time and matter it is not subject to. The third thing is that it is perfect. Those points all converge on a mathematical point, which exceeds our capacity of our left brain to put into words, so it cannot be adequately articulated. Our articulations can be, as a Zen monk would say, fingers pointing toward it at the moon." - Huston Smith, fully Huston Cummings Smith

"I call Zen the only living religion because it is not a religion, but only a religiousness. It has no dogma, it does not depend on any founder. It has no past; in fact it has nothing to teach you. It is the strangest thing that has happened in the whole history of mankind – strangest because it enjoys in emptiness, it blossoms in nothingness. It is fulfilled in innocence, in not knowing. It does not discriminate between the mundane and the sacred. For it, all that is, is sacred." - Osho, born Chandra Mohan Jain, also known as Acharya Rajneesh and Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh NULL

"The Taoist and Zen conception of perfection... the dynamic nature of their philosophy laid more stress upon the process through which perfection was sought than upon perfection itself. True beauty could be discovered only by one who mentally completed the incomplete. The virility of life and art lay in its possibilities for growth." -

"Bompu Zen, being free from any philosophic or religious content, is for anybody and everybody. It is a Zen practiced purely in the belief that it can improve both physical and mental health. Since it can almost certainly have no ill effects, anyone can undertake it, whatever religious beliefs they happen to hold or if they hold none at all. Bompu Zen is bound to eliminate sickness of a psychosomatic nature and to improve the health generally." - Philip Kapleau

"What is Zen? Zen is looking at things with the eye of God, that is, becoming the thing's eyes so that it looks at itself with our eyes." - R. H. Blyth, fully Reginald Horace Blyth

"What is Zen? Zen means doing anything perfectly, making mistakes perfectly, being defeated perfectly, hesitating perfectly, doing anything perfectly or imperfectly, perfectly. What is the meaning of this perfectly? How does it differ from perfectly? Perfectly is in the will; perfectly is in the activity. Perfectly means that at each moment of the activity there is no egoism in it" - R. H. Blyth, fully Reginald Horace Blyth

"In the Zen schools they say there were a way to be practiced, and a truth to be realized. Tell me, which truth is there realized, which way practiced? What are you missing in the way you are currently functioning? What do you want to correct?" - Rinzai, aka Lin- Chi Yi-Sen, Lin-chi I-hsuan, Rinzai Gigen, Venerable Master Lin Chi NULL

"When you try to grasp Zen in movement, it escapes into silence. When you try to grasp Zen in silence, it escapes into movement. It is like a fish in a source, who makes waves and dances at will." - Rinzai, aka Lin- Chi Yi-Sen, Lin-chi I-hsuan, Rinzai Gigen, Venerable Master Lin Chi NULL

"Death is treated as a teaching in Zen Buddhism. It reveals and enriches the truths of impermanence, compassion, and interdependence." - Robert Aitken, fully Robert Baker Aitken

"In the Zen schools they say there were a way to be practiced, and a truth to be realized. Tell me, which truth is there realized, which way practiced? What are you missing in the way you are currently functioning? What do you want to correct?" - Rinzai, aka Lin- Chi Yi-Sen, Lin-chi I-hsuan, Rinzai Gigen, Venerable Master Lin Chi NULL

"When you try to grasp Zen in movement, it escapes into silence. When you try to grasp Zen in silence, it escapes into movement. It is like a fish in a source, who makes waves and dances at will." - Rinzai, aka Lin- Chi Yi-Sen, Lin-chi I-hsuan, Rinzai Gigen, Venerable Master Lin Chi NULL

"Faith is a state of openness or trust…In other words, a person who is fanatic in matters of religion, and clings to certain ideas about the nature of God and the universe, becomes a person who has no faith at all. Instead they are holding tight. But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to the truth, whatever it might turn out to be." - Shunryu Suzuki, also Daisetsu Teitaro or D.T. Suzuki or Suzuki-Roshi

"Great works are done when one is not calculating and thinking." - Shunryu Suzuki, also Daisetsu Teitaro or D.T. Suzuki or Suzuki-Roshi

"If the Greeks taught us how to reason and Christianity what to believe, it is Zen that teaches us to go beyond logic and not to tarry even when we come up against ‘the things which are not seen’. For the Zen point of view is to find an absolute point where no dualism in whatever form resides. Logic starts from the division of subject and object, and belief distinguishes between what is seen and what is not seen. The Western mode of thinking can never do away with this eternal dilemma, this or that, reason or faith, man and God, etc. With Zen all these are swept aside as something veiling our insight into the nature of life and reality. Zen leads us into a realm of Emptiness or Void where no conceptualism prevails." - Shunryu Suzuki, also Daisetsu Teitaro or D.T. Suzuki or Suzuki-Roshi

"If you can just appreciate each thing, one by one, then you will have pure gratitude. Even though you observe just one flower, that one flower includes everything" - Shunryu Suzuki, also Daisetsu Teitaro or D.T. Suzuki or Suzuki-Roshi

"In our scriptures it is said that there are four kinds of horses: excellent ones, good ones, poor ones, and bad ones. The best horse will run slow and fast, right and left, at the driver's will, before it sees the shadow of the whip; the second best will run as well as the first one does, just before the whip reaches its skin; the third one will run when it feels pain on its body; the fourth will run after the pain penetrates to the marrow of its bones. You can imagine how difficult it is for the fourth one to learn how to run!" - Shunryu Suzuki, also Daisetsu Teitaro or D.T. Suzuki or Suzuki-Roshi

"In the beginner's mind there is no thought, I have attained something. All self-centered thoughts limit our vast mind. When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true beginners. Then we can really learn something. The beginner's mind is the mind of compassion. When our mind is compassionate, it is boundless. Dogen-zenji, the founder of our school, always emphasized how important it is to resume our boundless original mind. Then we are always true to ourselves, in sympathy with all beings, and can actually practice." - Shunryu Suzuki, also Daisetsu Teitaro or D.T. Suzuki or Suzuki-Roshi

"Nothing we see or hear is perfect. But right there in the imperfection is perfect reality." - Shunryu Suzuki, also Daisetsu Teitaro or D.T. Suzuki or Suzuki-Roshi

"Renunciation is not giving up the things of the world, but accepting that they go away." - Shunryu Suzuki, also Daisetsu Teitaro or D.T. Suzuki or Suzuki-Roshi

"So the secret is just to say 'Yes!' and jump off from here. Then there is no problem. It means to be yourself, always yourself, without sticking to an old self." - Shunryu Suzuki, also Daisetsu Teitaro or D.T. Suzuki or Suzuki-Roshi

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

"The truth of Zen, just a little bit of it, is what turns one's hum drum life, a life of monotonous, uninspiring commonplaceness, into one of art, full of genuine inner creativity." - Shunryu Suzuki, also Daisetsu Teitaro or D.T. Suzuki or Suzuki-Roshi

"To give your sheep or cow a large spacious meadow is the way to control him." - Shunryu Suzuki, also Daisetsu Teitaro or D.T. Suzuki or Suzuki-Roshi

"Usually when someone believes in a particular religion, his attitude becomes more and more a sharp angle pointing away from himself. In our way the point of the angle is always toward ourselves." - Shunryu Suzuki, also Daisetsu Teitaro or D.T. Suzuki or Suzuki-Roshi

"We have to study with our warm heart, not just with our brain." - Shunryu Suzuki, also Daisetsu Teitaro or D.T. Suzuki or Suzuki-Roshi

"Zen opens a man's eyes to the greatest mystery as it is daily and hourly performed; it enlarges the heart to embrace eternity of time and infinity of space in its every palpitation; it makes us live in the world as if walking in the garden of Eden." - Shunryu Suzuki, also Daisetsu Teitaro or D.T. Suzuki or Suzuki-Roshi

"Also, keep in mind that even suffering can have its good points. Sometimes, when things are going along relatively smoothly for you, you can more easily ignore the difficulties of others. But, when you yourself encounter these same difficulties, you’re more likely to open your heart and experience empathy. As your heart opens, your loving-compassion also grows stronger. If you can use your difficulties to help generate genuine and deeply felt compassion for others — one of the most beautiful and liberating of all spiritual qualities — then your suffering was definitely worthwhile." - Stephan Bodian

"Of thoughts, feelings, memories, and beliefs held together by a sense of identity—and no longer mistakenly take it to be the truth of who you are or feel compelled to follow its directives. In" - Stephan Bodian