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Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice

By Shunryu Suzuki
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind (1970) is a starter’s guide to Zen Buddhism. These blinks explain how Zen is not only a system of meditation, but also a philosophy of life. They describe how to sit, breathe and observe while maintaining a vital connection to the present moment.

Key idea 1 of 8

The Zen meditation posture is a practice unto itself but also has a deeper symbolic meaning.

Lots of modern health gurus promote a particular body posture as a way to feel more confident and happy. Interestingly enough, so does the ancient practice of Zen Buddhism.

The posture Zen practitioners adopt when meditating promotes spirituality in and of itself. Not just that, but taking a certain posture actually constitutes the entire practice, as it enables your mind to automatically tune into the spiritual realm.

As a result, the sole aim of the practice is to sit in this position. So, what exactly is it?

Sit cross-legged, preferably in the lotus position, with your right foot on your left thigh and your left foot on your right thigh. Your spine should be straight, with your chin pressed gently down.

The center of your body, just below your belly button, should also be aiming down, directly toward the floor. This last shift will help with stability.

But this isn’t a purely pragmatic technique. The lotus meditation posture also has a symbolic meaning that relates to the relationship between life and death.

More specifically, it’s a symbolic expression of non-duality, the notion that all things and beings on earth have the same essence. While people tend to think of themselves as having two legs, those two legs “become one” in lotus, when it’s no longer as apparent which leg is right and which is left.

This concept of nonduality is essential as it applies to every aspect of the Zen worldview. Therefore, “life” and “death” don’t exist. Rather, life ends while remaining eternal. You die, yet you do not die. The body and mind dissolve but remain.

Such seeming contradictions are unified by a single, harmonious idea, which is the essence of Zen.

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