quotations about Zen

Zen quote

The only Zen you find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there.

ROBERT M. PIRSIG, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


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Zen could be said to be the biggest joke that has ever been played in the spiritual realm. But it is a practical joke, very practical.

CHOGYAM TRUNGPA RINPOCHE, "Zen Mind, Vajra Mind", Lion's Roar, February 14, 2017


Zen lives in the present. The Whole teaching is: how to be in the present; how to get out of the past which is no more and how not to get involved in the future which is not yet, and just to be rooted, centered, in that which is.

OSHO, Zen: The Path of Paradox


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I have lived with several Zen masters -- all of them cats.

ECKHART TOLLE, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment


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When I say that Zen is life, I mean that Zen is not to be confined within conceptualization, that Zen is what makes conceptualization possible.

DAISETZ TEITARO SUZUKI, Zen Buddhism: Selected Writings of D.T. Suzuki


To me Zen is a bit like the mikan trees that grow in our temple orchard. The mikan is a kind of mandarin orange that we harvest in late autumn. Every year, I make it a rule to take my son, Söjun, into the orchard to let him learn something of Zen from mikan-picking. At this time of the year, all the mikan branches are heavy with ripe fruit. Just looking at them makes me restless. I feel as though it were my urgent business to release each tree from its heavy burden. The drooping branch is my drooping heart. It's not good for a burdened heart to bear more than it has to. And like the bending mikan trees, the burden should not be carried indefinitely. Unload and just enjoy the freedom of it.

SOIKU SHIGEMATSU, introduction, A Zen Harvest


Zen is a philosophy of action. That means it isn't just a philosophy you read about and think about. It's a philosophy you do.

BRAD WARNER, Hardcore Zen


Zen is neither a bystander's philosophy nor a principle, but an all-embracing human activity, a way of life, a way of identification--a subtle way of establishing our own subjecthood in no-mindedness.



There are in Zen no sacred books or dogmatic tenets, nor are there any symbolic formulae through which an access might be gained into the signification of Zen. If I am asked, then, what Zen teaches, I would answer, Zen teaches nothing. Whatever teachings there are in Zen, they come out of one's own mind. We teach ourselves; Zen merely points the way.

DAISETZ TEITARO SUZUKI, An Introduction to Zen Buddhism


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No matter what verbal space you try to enclose Zen in, it resists, and spills over ... the Zen attitude is that words and truth are incompatible, or at least that no words can capture truth.

DOUGLAS HOFSTADTER, Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid


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One has to reach to the absolute state of awareness: that is Zen. You cannot do it every morning for a few minutes or for half an hour and then forget all about it. It has to become like your heartbeat. You have to sit in it, you have to walk in it. Yes, you have even to sleep in it.

OSHO, Walking in Zen, Sitting in Zen


Zen ... does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.

ALAN WATTS, The Way of Zen


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Zen is to religion what a Japanese "rock garden" is to a garden. Zen knows no god, no afterlife, no good and no evil, as the rock-garden knows no flowers, herbs or shrubs. It has no doctrine or holy writ: its teaching is transmitted mainly in the form of parables as ambiguous as the pebbles in the rock-garden which symbolise now a mountain, now a fleeting tiger. When a disciple asks "What is Zen?", the master's traditional answer is "Three pounds of flax" or "A decaying noodle" or "A toilet stick" or a whack on the pupil's head.

ARTHUR KOESTLER, "A Taste of Zen", Bricks to Babel


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Zen is really extraordinarily simple as long as one doesn't try to be cute about it or beat around the bush! Zen is simply the sensation and the clear understanding ... that there is behind the multiplicity of events and creatures in this universe simply one energy -- and it appears as you, and everything is it. The practice of Zen is to understand that one energy so as to "feel it in your bones."

ALAN WATTS, What Is Zen?


We live in a supermarket of ideas, faiths, practices, theories, ideologies, and much else besides. Never in human history have there been so many movements and ideas struggling to attract our attention. Added to this, the Western world is swamped by material goods and the Western mind is dominated by the goal of material success. In all this confusion, Zen stands out as a voice of sanity. It represents a different way of seeing the world, one based upon the rediscovery of who we really are and have always been, through revealing to us our true nature.



Tags: David Fontana

In Zen, poverty is voluntary, and considered not really as poverty so much as simplicity, freedom, unclutteredness.

ALAN WATTS, What Is Zen?


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Zen, like life, defies exact definition, but its essence is the experience, moment by moment, of our own existence -- a natural, spontaneous encounter, unclouded by the suppositions and expectations that come between us and reality. It is, if you like, a paring down of life until we see it as it really is, free from our illusions; it is merely a divestment of ourselves until we recognize our own true nature.



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Zen taught me how to pay attention, how to delve, how to question and enter, how to stay with -- or at least want to try to stay with -- whatever is going on.

JANE HIRSHFIELD, The Atlantic Online, Sep. 18, 1997


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Zen is a double-edged sword, killing words and thoughts, yet at the same time, giving them life. Although beyond human intellect and philosophy, Zen is their root and source.

MASAO ABE, Zen and Western Thought


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Zen is very easy! It's like touching your nose when you wash your face in the morning!

SEUNG SAHN, Wanting Enlightenment is a Big Mistake