smooth natural mind

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Nyu nan shin means a smooth, natural mind.”

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Shunryu Suzuki:

This naturalness is very difficult to explain. But if you can just sit and experience the actuality of nothingness in your practice, there is no need to explain. If it comes out of nothingness, whatever you do is natural, and that is true activity. You have the true joy of practice, the true joy of life in it.

Everyone comes out from nothingness moment after moment. Moment after moment we have true joy of life. So we say shin ku myo u, “from true emptiness, the wondrous being appears.” Shin is “true”; ku is “emptiness”; myo is “wondrous”; u is “being”: from true emptiness, wondrous being.

Without nothingness, there is no naturalness—no true being. True being comes out of nothingness, moment after moment. Nothingness is always there, and from it everything appears. But usually, forgetting all about nothingness, you behave as if you have something. What you do is based on some possessive idea or some concrete idea, and that is not natural.

For instance, when you listen to a lecture, you should not have any idea of yourself. You should not have your own idea when you listen to someone. Forget what you have in your mind and just listen to what he says. To have nothing in your mind is naturalness. Then you will understand what he says. But if you have some idea to compare with what he says, you will not hear everything; your understanding will be one-sided; that is not naturalness. When you do something, you should be completely involved in it. You should devote yourself to it completely. Then you have nothing. So if there is no true emptiness in your activity, it is not natural.

Most people insist on some idea. Recently the younger generation talks about love. Love! Love! Love! Their minds are full of love! And when they study Zen, if what I say does not accord with the idea they have of love, they will not accept it. They are quite stubborn, you know. You may be amazed! Of course not all, but some have a very, very hard attitude.

That is not naturalness at all. Even though they talk about love, and freedom or naturalness, they do not understand these things. And they cannot understand what Zen is in that way. If you want to study Zen, you should forget all your previous ideas and just practice zazen and see what kind of experience you have in your practice. That is naturalness.

Whatever you do, this attitude is necessary. Sometimes we say nyu nan shin, “soft or flexible mind.” Nyu is “soft feeling”; nan is “something which is not hard“; shin is “mind.” Nyu nan shin means a smooth, natural mind. When you have that mind, you have the joy of life. When you lose it, you lose everything. You have nothing. Although you think you have something, you have nothing; But when all you do comes out of nothingness, then you have everything. Do you understand? That is what we mean by naturalness.

source: Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Chapter Naturalness, PDF p. 54, 55

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