Monday, June 11, 2012

Beginner's Mind

I had a new student come round last night.

It was really helpful - I always find I learn more from my students than they do from me. What I (re)learnt from him was the value of "beginner's mind" - that sharp-witted, open-hearted, entirely committed state which brings the best spiritual practice.

It shone a mercilessly bright searchlight straight at my own practice, which had become so stale it was just an occasional token nod in the vague direction of Zen. What's the point of pretending to practise?

Thus learning from his example, I turned myself back into an absolute beginner by adopting a form of Zen practice entirely new to me. (For those that are interested, I have replaced my fake shikantaza with naikan. If you're not familiar with naikan, there's an excellent summary at and an explanation with some helpful real-life examples at

Of course, it's not entirely new to me, in that all Zen practices are just different fingers pointing towards the same Great Mind. However, it is new enough to have given me back that "beginner's mind" - and suddenly Zen seems once more like a blessing, not a chore.

1 comment:

  1. I have practiced Zen for 40+ years, in both formal and informal training, one opens the other, the narrow (formal) and the wide (everyday life), not any difference but..
    My biggest inspiration was working with my masters Sochu Sukuki Roshi and Kyudo Nakagawa Roshi,
    Irmgard Schoegel changed my life in just one interview. So homage to them as deep Dharma friends.
    So I will get to the point and stop waffling, I have found that being open and responsive to all Dharma teachings, via intuition, serendidipty or intentionality to be within the 4 Bhodhisattva vows, "the dharmas are endless I vow to master them all"
    So Beginners Mind, what else is there?
    "Firewood becomes ash, and it does not become firewood again. Yet, do not suppose that the ash is future and the firewood past. You should understand that firewood abides in the phenomenal expression of firewood, which fully includes past and future and is independent of past and future. Ash abides in the phenomenal expression of ash, which fully includes future and past. Just as firewood does not become firewood again after it is ash, you do not return to birth after death.

    Genjo Koan Dogen Zenji.

    So again Beginners Mind.
    So the dharma, I have found great openness,joy by practicing Lojong and Tonglen in my daily life.
    Of course Zazen contains all this, but another view from a different mountain sometimes illuminates the mountain one sits in/on.
    Peace in Dharma, Bhodichitta,
    Peter Hodgkinson