What Does Being A Buddhist Mean To You?

RE: Beginner's mind

Genpo Roshi, Kazeon Zen Center, Salt Lake City, UT

Entering into every moment not knowing. A
beginner approaches Zen with an open mind, without too much knowledge
or too many opinions. The challenge is maintaining this approach after
15 or 20 years of practice, and entering all of life with that
perspective: not knowing. Because basically what it all comes down to
is that we just don’t know.

Sukkha Murray, Zen Buddhist Temple, Ann Arbor, Michigan

My teacher greets people again and again with
a big, friendly smile, as if for the first time. A distressed woman
phones about her brain tumor. I listen intently, lunch forgotten. On
this clear brisk day a big slow fly crawls across the window in front
of my desk. When my habitual tendencies take over and I go on
“automatic pilot” with my eleven year old daughter, Komani, she catches
me and says Hello! (Sounds like Wake Up!)

Robert Livingston Roshi, Abbot, New Orleans Zen Temple, New Orleans, LA

During zazen, and in our daily lives, we
concentrate here and now, paying attention to what we are doing each
moment. This is the natural, open attitude of the beginner,
unencumbered by preconceived ideas. This is true Zen mind. We are all

Roko Sherry Chayat, Abbot, Zen Center of Syracuse Hoen-ji

Through the years of repetitiously
slogging away, something happens - gradually or instantaneously,
imperceptibly or dramatically. Our ideas about what practice is fall
away. Forgetting what we know, we discover our original beginner’s
mind: each moment fresh, alive, never having occurred before, never to
occur again. Realizing there is nothing to hold onto, nothing to
remember, we experience the joy of forgetting. Beginner’s mind?

Laura Shinko Kwong, Co-Founder & Zen Priest, Sonoma Mountain Zen Center, Santa Rosa, CA

We value beginner’s mind because it is an open
mind like an open sky, open to anything the way a child is, able to be
fully engaged in each moment. Beginner’s mind is open to all
possibilities. Many people want expert mind which is actually limited
mind, because it can only see from one perspective. Beginner’s mind is
open to what is, and so with beginner’s mind we live more fully and

Taiken Yokoyama, Rector, Sanshin Zen Community, Iowa City, IA

To respect harmony and quietness.

Kent Gendo Bunting, Facilitator, Beginner’s Mind Workshop, Missouri Zen Center, St. Louis, MO

I teach at a law school and students often assume they know the
right answer and therefore they can’t see the other argument. As soon
as you think you have all the answers, you stop listening to what
others can teach you. And this rigidness can extend to everything you
do in life. So beginner’s mind is the opposite of knowing that you’re
right, not in the sense of not knowing anything, but in the sense of
withholding judgement and trying to learn from every situation.

Judith Ashley Haggar, Board of Directors, Anchorage Zen Community, Anchorage, AK

No agenda, no expectations, no regrets.

Jiun Ewa Tarasewicz, Zen Nun, Sunset Park Zendo, Brooklyn, NY

It’s like waking up in the middle of the night - you don’t know if you’re lying down or standing up, if you’re in your bed or in the grass, what you did just a moment ago - before you create the wall between “this” and “that,” before you find yourself separated from everything else, before a single thought appears: That’s the beginner’s mind.

Mike Dosho Port (Photo w/ daughter Lily), Zen Teacher, Clouds in Water Zen Center, Minneapolis, MN

Asking the question is itself the practice of
beginner’s mind. Asking is the invitation to freshness. There’s a story
of a Zen student who asked Suzuki Roshi, “What is the meaning of being
a Zen Priest?” “The meaning is in the doing,” was his response.

Sunya Kjolhede, Zen Priest, Rochester Zen Center, Rochester, NY

The most basic, uncomplicated state. To see it in action, look at the nearest baby.

Joe Bobrow, Zen Teacher, Harbor Sangha, San Francisco, California

Beginner’s mind brings the kids to school, it cooks supper, wrestles with finances, makes love; it feels loss and sorrow, it gets confused, finds its way, loses it again. Though you can’t see, smell, hear, taste or touch beginner’s mind, it sees deeply, it smells, it hears the sounds of suffering and joy. Since it contains nothing at all that is self-centered, it responds freely and compassionately in accord with the circumstances - and not necessarily in a respectable way. Beginner’s mind is free to kill and free to give life.

Danan Henry Sensei (he ran in Summer 1996), Denver Zen Center

Looking on the world through the eyes of a newborn calf.

Share with a Friend

Email to a Friend

Already a member? Log in to share this content.

You must be a Tricycle Community member to use this feature.

1. Join as a Basic Member

Signing up to Tricycle newsletters will enroll you as a free Tricycle Basic Member.You can opt out of our emails at any time from your account screen.

2. Enter Your Message Details

Enter multiple email addresses on separate lines or separate them with commas.