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Shunryu Suzuki Lectures

Beginner's Mind


Chapter 5 - Zen and Excitement

 See ZEN AND EXCITEMENT, p. 57 of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind
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Zen and Excitement

My master passed away when I was thirty-three, so after his death I became pretty busy. I wanted to devote myself just to Zen practice, but I couldn't stay at Eiheiji monastery because I had to be the successor of his temple. For us, it is necessary to keep the constant way -- not some kind of excitement, but we should be concentrated on the usual everyday routine. If we become too busy and too excited our mind will become rough -- rugged. This is not so good for us. So, if possible try to be always calm and joyful and keep yourself from excitement. That is most important thing for us. But usually we become busier and busier, day by day, year after year. If I go back to Japan this summer I will be astonished at the changes in Japan. It can't be helped. But if we become interested in some excitement this change will accelerate, we will be lost, and we will be completely involved in busy life. But if our mind is always calm and constant we can keep our self away from noisy world even though we are in the midst of it. In the midst of the noisy world our mind will always be calm and stable.

Zen is not some excitement, but some people practice Zen because of some curiosity. That is a kind of excitement. It is not Zen. If you practice Zen in this way you will make yourself worse because of Zen practice. This is ridiculous. Many people are interested in Zazen just by curiosity, and make themselves worse and busier. I think if you try to come once a week here, that will make you pretty busy. That is enough. Don't be too much interested in Zen. Just keep yourself calm and keep your constant way in everyday life. Once -- young people especially -- become interested in Zen they will give up schooling. And some go to some mountain or forest where they can sit. But that kind of interest is not true interest. When I was young I didn't want to be successor of my master, but I had to, but since then because I became my master's successor when I was so young, I had many difficulties. These difficulties gave me some experience. But those experiences, compared to the true, calm, and serene way of life, those experiences were nothing.

So if you continue the calm, ordinary practice, your character will be built up. But if your mind is always busy there's no time to build up your character. Even though you want to build up your character you will not be successful if you work on it too hard. It should be gone little by little, step by step. It is the same as making bread. If you give it too much heat it will burn. You will not get bread. It is the same thing with our character -- we have to do it little by little. And moderate temperature is needed. Not too much temperature or excitement, but little by little. You know yourself, pretty well, how much heat, how much temperature you want. You know exactly what you need. But if you have too much excitement you forget your own way and you will forget how much temperature is good for you. That's very dangerous.

Buddha says it is the same thing with the good driver. (Driver of a cow, not motor car.) The driver knows how much load the cow can carry, and keeps the cow from being too loaded. You know your way and your state of mind. So you know how much load you can carry. Don't carry too much, Buddha says. It is very good instruction. Or, he says, it is the same thing as making a dam. If you want to make a dam, you should be careful in making the bank. If you try to do it all at once, the water will leak from the bank, so you have to make the bank carefully, little by little. Then you will have a fine good bank for the reservoir. This is the way, he says. This is quite true with me. So too much excitement is not good. It looks like a very negative way, but it is not so. It is wise and a more comfortable way (or effective way) to work with ourselves. I find this point is very difficult for people who study Zen. Especially young people. -Shunryu Suzuki Roshi


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