Genpo Roshi, Kazeon Zen Center, Salt Lake City, UT
Entering into every moment not knowing. A beginner approaches Zen with an open mind, without too much knowledge or too many opinions. The challenge is maintaining this approach after 15 or 20 years of practice, and entering all of life with that perspective: not knowing. Because basically what it all comes down to is that we just don’t know.
Sukkha Murray, Zen Buddhist Temple, Ann Arbor, Michigan
My teacher greets people again and again with a big, friendly smile, as if for the first time. A distressed woman phones about her brain tumor. I listen intently, lunch forgotten. On this clear brisk day a big slow fly crawls across the window in front of my desk. When my habitual tendencies take over and I go on “automatic pilot” with my eleven year old daughter, Komani, she catches me and says Hello! (Sounds like Wake Up!)
Robert Livingston Roshi, Abbot, New Orleans Zen Temple, New Orleans, LA
During zazen, and in our daily lives, we concentrate here and now, paying attention to what we are doing each moment. This is the natural, open attitude of the beginner, unencumbered by preconceived ideas. This is true Zen mind. We are all beginners.
Roko Sherry Chayat, Abbot, Zen Center of Syracuse Hoen-ji
Through the years of repetitiously slogging away, something happens – gradually or instantaneously, imperceptibly or dramatically. Our ideas about what practice is fall away. Forgetting what we know, we discover our original beginner’s mind: each moment fresh, alive, never having occurred before, never to occur again. Realizing there is nothing to hold onto, nothing to remember, we experience the joy of forgetting. Beginner’s mind? Gratitude.
Laura Shinko Kwong, Co-Founder & Zen Priest, Sonoma Mountain Zen Center, Santa Rosa, CA
We value beginner’s mind because it is an open mind like an open sky, open to anything the way a child is, able to be fully engaged in each moment. Beginner’s mind is open to all possibilities. Many people want expert mind which is actually limited mind, because it can only see from one perspective. Beginner’s mind is open to what is, and so with beginner’s mind we live more fully and wholeheartedly.
Taiken Yokoyama, Rector, Sanshin Zen Community, Iowa City, IA
To respect harmony and quietness.
Kent Gendo Bunting, Facilitator, Beginner’s Mind Workshop, Missouri Zen Center, St. Louis, MO
I teach at a law school and students often assume they know the right answer and therefore they can’t see the other argument. As soon as you think you have all the answers, you stop listening to what others can teach you. And this rigidness can extend to everything you do in life. So beginner’s mind is the opposite of knowing that you’re right, not in the sense of not knowing anything, but in the sense of withholding judgement and trying to learn from every situation.
Judith Ashley Haggar, Board of Directors, Anchorage Zen Community, Anchorage, AK
No agenda, no expectations, no regrets.
Jiun Ewa Tarasewicz, Zen Nun, Sunset Park Zendo, Brooklyn, NY
It’s like waking up in the middle of the night – you don’t know if you’re lying down or standing up, if you’re in your bed or in the grass, what you did just a moment ago – before you create the wall between “this” and “that,” before you find yourself separated from everything else, before a single thought appears: That’s the beginner’s mind.
Mike Dosho Port, Zen Teacher, Clouds in Water Zen Center, Minneapolis, MN
Asking the question is itself the practice of beginner’s mind. Asking is the invitation to freshness. There’s a story of a Zen student who asked Suzuki Roshi, “What is the meaning of being a Zen Priest?” “The meaning is in the doing,” was his response.
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