Let’s have a cup of tea! – Zen

Chinese drinking tea
This post contains a bit over two pages from the book “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” – the Chapter “Single Minded Way”  by Shunryu Suzuki.
At the bottom of this post please find the YouTube video of this chapter read by Peter Coyote.


SINGLE-MINDED WAY:“Even if the sun were to rise from the west, the Bodhisattva has only one way.”

The purpose of my talk is not to give you some intellectual understanding, but just to express my appreciation of our Zen practice. To be able to sit with you in zazen is very, very unusual. Of course, whatever we do is unusual, because our life itself is so unusual. Buddha said, “To appreciate your human life is as rare as soil on your fingernail.” You know, dirt hardly ever sticks on your nail. Our human life is rare and wonderful; when I sit I want to remain sitting forever, but I encourage myself to have another practice, for instance to recite the sutra, or to bow. And when I bow, I think, “This is wonderful.” But I have to change my practice again to recite the sutra. So the purpose of my talk is to express my appreciation, that is all. Our way is not to sit to acquire something; it is to express our true nature. That is our practice. Continue reading

Zen: good and bad, man and woman, doing and not-doing

This post contains three pages from the book “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” by Shunryu Suzuki. These three pages, if brought into your life, will bring you depth and equanimity.

BREATHING “What we call I is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale.”

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Shunryu Suzuki:

Cover of "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind"

Cover of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

“When we practice zazen our mind always follows our breathing. When we inhale, the air comes into the inner world. When we exhale, the air goes out to the outer world. The inner world is limitless, and the outer world is also limitless. We say “inner world” or “outer world,” but actually there is just one whole world. In this limitless world, our throat is like a swinging door. The air comes in and goes out like someone passing through a swinging door. If you think, “I breathe,” the “I” is extra. There is no you to say “I.” What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. It just moves; that is all. When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing: no “I,” no world, no mind nobody; just a swinging door.
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Form is form and you are you – Zen

This post contains a little over two pages from the book “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”, the chapter NON-DUALISM, by Shunryu Suzuki.

At the bottom you will find the YouTube video of Peter Coyote reading this audio book.

(bold highlights are mine):


“To stop jour mind does not mean to stop the activities of mind. It means your mind pervades jour whole body. With your full mind you form the mudra in jour hands.”

We say our practice should be without gaining ideas, without any expectations, even of enlightenment. This does not mean, however, just to sit without any purpose. This practice free from gaining ideas is based on the Prajna Paramita Sutra.

However, if you are not careful the sutra itself will give you a gaining idea. It says, “Form is emptiness and emptiness is form.” But if you attach to that statement, you are liable to be involved in dualistic ideas: here is you, form, and here is emptiness, which you are trying to realize through your form.

Shunryu Suzuki 1

So “form is emptiness, and emptiness is form” is still dualistic. But fortunately, our teaching goes on to say, “Form is form and emptiness is emptiness.” Here there is no dualism. When you find it difficult to stop your mind while you are sitting and when you are still trying to stop your mind, this is the stage of “form is emptiness and emptiness is form.”

But while you are practicing in this dualistic way, more and more you will have oneness with your goal. And when your practice becomes effortless, you can stop your mind. This is the stage of “form is form and emptiness is emptiness.”

To stop your mind does not mean to stop the activities of mind. It means your mind pervades your whole body. Your mind follows your breathing. With your full mind you form the mudra in your hands. With your whole mind you sit with painful legs without being disturbed by them. This is to sit without any gaining idea. At first you feel some restriction in your posture, but when you are not disturbed by the restriction, you have found the meaning of “emptiness is emptiness and form is form.” So to find your own way under some restriction is the way of practice.

Practice does not mean that whatever you do, even lying down, is zazen. When the restrictions you have do not limit you, this is what we mean by practice. When you say, “Whatever I do is Buddha nature, so it doesn’t matter what I do, and there is no need to practice zazen,” that is already a dualistic understanding of our everyday life. If it really does not matter, there is no need for you even to say so. As long as you are concerned about what you do, that is dualistic. If you are not concerned about what you do, you will not say so. When you sit, you will sit. When you eat, you will eat. That is all. If you say, “It doesn’t matter,” it means that you are making some excuse to do something in your own way with your small mind. It means you are attached to some particular thing or way. That is not what we mean when we say, “Just to sit is enough,” or “Whatever you do is zazen.” Of course whatever we do is zazen, but if so, there is no need to say it.

When you sit, you should just sit without being disturbed by your painful legs or sleepiness. That is zazen. But at first it is very difficult to accept things as they are. You will be annoyed by the feeling you have in your practice. When you can do everything, whether it is good or bad, without disturbance or without being annoyed by the feeling, that is actually what we mean by “form is form and emptiness is emptiness.”

When you suffer from an illness like cancer, and you realize you cannot live more than two or three years, then seeking something upon which to rely, you may start practice. One person may rely on the help of God. Someone else may start the practice of zazen. His practice will be concentrated on obtaining emptiness of mind. That means he is trying to be free from the suffering of duality. This is the practice of “form is emptiness and emptiness is form.” Because of the truth of emptiness, he wants to have the actual realization of it in his life. If he practices in this way, believing and making an effort, it will help him, of course, but it is not perfect practice.

Knowing that your life is short, to enjoy it day after day, moment after moment, is the life of “form is form, and emptiness emptiness.” When Buddha comes, you will welcome him; when the devil comes, you will welcome him. The famous Chinese Zen master Ummon, said, “Sun-faced Buddha and moon-faced Buddha.” When he was ill, someone asked him, “How are you?” And he answered, “Sun-faced Buddha and moon-faced Buddha.” That is the life of “form is form and emptiness is emptiness.” There is no problem. One year of life is good. One hundred years of life are good. If you continue our practice, you will attain this stage.

At first you will have various problems, and it is necessary for you to make some effort to continue our practice. For the beginner, practice without effort is not true practice.

For the beginner, the practice needs great effort. Especially for young people, it is necessary to try very hard to achieve something. You must stretch out your arms and legs as wide as they will go. Form is form. You must be true to your own way until at last you actually come to the point where you see it is necessary to forget all about yourself. Until you come to this point, it is completely mistaken to think that whatever you do is Zen or that it does not matter whether you practice or not. But if you make your best effort just to continue your practice with your whole mind and body, without gaining ideas, then whatever you do will be true practice.

Just to continue should be your purpose. When you do something, just to do it should be your purpose. Form is form and you are you, and true emptiness will be realized in your practice.





Zen: shin ku myo u

“Moment after moment, everyone comes out from nothingness. This is the true joy of lifeSo 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.”

shin ku myo u pin

excerpt from


There is a big misunderstanding about the idea of naturalness. Most people who come to us believe in some freedom or naturalness, but their understanding is what we call jinen ken gedo, or heretical naturalness. Jinen ken gedo means that there is no need to be formal—just a kind of “let-alone policy” or sloppiness. That is naturalness for most people. But that is not the naturalness we mean.  Continue reading

Zen: Right Communication

Right Attitude, Negative and Positive – Shunryu Suzuki

white_stone_on_the_sand_1920x1200“The more you understand our thinking, the more you find it difficult to talk about it. The purpose of my talking is to give you some idea of our way, but actually, it is not something to talk about, but something to practice. The best way is just to practice without saying anything. When we talk about our way, there is apt to be some misunderstanding, because the true way always has at least two sides, the negative and the positive. When we talk about the negative side, the positive side is missing, and when we talk about the positive side, the negative side is missing. Continue reading

Zen: A Cup Of Tea

Chinese drinking tea

The following story is found in “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” by Shunryu Suzuki. It reminds me of something Eckhart Tolle said: “Life isn’t as serious as you think it is.”

There were two good friends, Chokei and Hofuku. They were talking about the Bodhisattva’s way, and Chokei said, “Even if the arhat (an enlightened one) were to have evil desires, still the Tathagata (Buddha) does not have two kinds of words. I say that the Tathagata has words, but no dualistic words.” Hofuku said, “Even though you say so, your comment is not perfect.” Chokei asked, “What is your understanding of the Tathagata’s words?” Hofuku said, “We have had enough discussion, so let’s have a cup of tea!”
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Zen: CO N T R O L

This post contains a little over two pages from the book “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” by Shunryu Suzuki.

At the bottom you will find the YouTube video of Peter Coyote reading this chapter.

“To give your sheep or cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control him.”

To live in the realm of Buddha nature means to die as a small being, moment after moment. When we lose our balance we die, but at the same time we also develop ourselves, we grow. Whatever we see is changing, losing its balance. The reason everything looks beautiful is because it is out of balance, but its background is always in perfect harmony. Continue reading