Many Zen Students and even a few teachers think Zen is a kind of psychology. This is a little like thinking that persimmons are a type of banana. The Zen master is more like a flea than he or she is like a psychologist. More like a cool breeze. More like a mountain peak. I am not exaggerating or being fanciful.


Some People think of Zen practice as a kind of therapy. That’s not completely mistaken, of course. Yamada Koun Roshi used to say that the practice of Zen is to forget the self in the act of uniting with something—Mu, or breath counting, or the song of a thrush. That is wonderful therapy. Concern about me and mine disappears.


Shunryu Suzuki Roshi said, “Being a Zen master means coping with one’s mistakes.” Indeed, and it’s a pretty lonely position. If you confess to your errors, some of the good students will go away. If you don’t, you yourself will go away. I don’t wonder at the alcoholism found occasionally in sacred halls.

From Miniatures of a Zen Master, © 2008 by Robert Aitken. Reprinted with permission from Counterpoint.

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