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July 03, 2014


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Terms like "beginner's" mind are like "the sun rising", a matter of convenience and perhaps perspective, but not so much an accurate or precise description of thing itself.

Is zen at first blush truly different than veteran zen? I would have to say it neither is nor is not. I certainly get Zennist's point (and Susan's), and for that matter I see where Suzuki is coming from (at least I think so).

But in the context of dependent origination, nothing can be said to begin. Until seeds planted in the buddha lands come to flower, who is not a beginner? No matter how dense or obscure, what mind springs into being from nothingness?

I have a friend who surfs, another who climbs, another who rides state of the art motorcycles: each insist this is their zen.

For whatever knowledge to be gained through study of the sutras and not just buddhism, but the teachings of various spiritual traditions, I cannot say they are wrong. Nor would I say they are right.

Susan: I like the idea of an "open mind" not so much a "beginner's mind."

I've always thought that Suzuki meant by that passage, not that there was something wrong with an educated inquiring mind, and something special about a common mind, but that a mind with a lot of fixed conceptions can't easily get out of the cultural framework. It's too full already. Is an intellectual more "prejudiced" than an uneducated person? Sometimes. Sometimes not. Obviously a certain level of intellect is required to study the sutras, and mental discipline is necessary for mindful practice. I believe that what Suzuki is looking for, what he identifies as the "beginner's mind" is freshness and openness every time we approach practice and study. Otherwise, Zen practice quickly devolves into just another religious routine with no goal in sight.

Being provocative is fun!:)

"Subhuti, when people begin their practice of seeking to attaining total Enlightenment, they ought to see, to perceive, to know, to understand, and to realize that all things and all spiritual truths are no-things, and, therefore, they ought not to conceive within their minds any arbitrary conceptions whatsoever."
--Diamond Sutra (31)

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