What is Zen?

“Zen Buddhism is about awareness. Not awareness of something in particular, but awareness itself—being awake, alert, in touch with what is actually happening. It’s about examining and exploring the most basic questions of life. It’s about relying on the immediate experience of this present moment. It’s about freedom of mind. It’s not about belief, doctrine, formula, or tradition. The observations and insights of the Buddha are plain, practical, and eminently down-to-earth. They deal exclusively with here and now—not with theory, speculation, or belief in some far-off time or place. Because these teachings remain focused in this moment, they remain relevant, and of profound value, to every culture and every person who investigates them seriously.”

—from Buddhism Plain and Simple by Steve Hagen

“In the beginner’s mind there is no thought ‘I have attained something.’ When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true beginners. Then we can really learn something. The beginner’s mind is the mind of compassion. When our mind is compassionate, it is boundless…the most difficult thing is always to keep your beginner’s mind. There is no need to have a deep understanding of Zen…always be a beginner. Be very very careful about this point. If you start to practice zazen, you will begin to appreciate your beginner’s mind. It is the secret of Zen practice.”

—from Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki