I never had high regards for the book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. Although it proved to be a very popular book for those who want to learn about Zen but haven't the time to study what Zen is really about, I saw it as a very bad book. For one thing, it preyed on the great weakness of beginners: their tendency to be overconfident in addition to their spiritual ignorance of the fact that the tradition of Zen Buddhism is about reaching a mystic awakening beyond the confines of the temporal world.
Beginner’s overconfidence, which they take for wisdom, tends to be very strong and difficult to change. It takes an enormous amount of effort on the part of a good teacher to wean the beginner off of their overconfidence; to teach beginners that they should have great doubt which can generate great seeking. The only thing a beginner should know is they don’t know.
No beginner should assume that the beginning mind (初心) or in Japanese shoshin is the same as the pure Mind which is effulgent and supramundane. They are world’s apart. No amount of zazen, holding the beginner’s mind, can change this difference. What is really being done as far as the beginner’s mind is concerned is trying to calm the monkey mind down. A bad teacher might even go so far as to suggest that the monkey mind is part of the big mind like waves are part of water. The two can’t be separated. Thus, big mind and monkey mind are one!
Another problem that is overlooked as regards beginning mind is that it is in constant non-knowledge (avidya) of the pristine substance of mind, this substance being pure or unconditioned. Because of this non-knowledge beginners more than often take the wrong path and go to the wrong teachers. Even their thinking is offtrack. Back to the wave & water analogy, beginners don’t understand that waves are not fundamental or equal with water. Only the water is truly real. Likewise, when deluded thoughts or the monkey mind suddenly stops, only then is the pure Mind seen, as it is, without distortion.