Remembering Beginner\’s Mind

”In the beginner\’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert\’s mind there are few.
— Shunry? Suzuki Roshi


The above quote has always bothered me. My immediate reaction is, “You need some better experts.” There is an anti-intellectual thread in Zen Buddhism. Several of the Chinese Patriarchs reputedly did not read or write. And the teaching story of the university professor visiting the Zen Master for tea does take a dig in that direction.

I\’ve read the talk the quote comes from several times, trying to understand what he is saying.  Part of his point is the same as this quote by Pablo Picasso, “Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist as we grow up.”

I think my difficulty is two fold and both are captured in another Zen saying, “Before you study Zen, mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers; while you are studying Zen, mountains are no longer mountains and rivers are no longer rivers; but once you have had enlightenment, mountains are again mountains and rivers are again rivers.”

Suzuki Roshi is referring to the middle stage as an expert.  And possibilities are few for the person who is recently arrived at competence, to knowing the one right answer. But for me, an expert is someone who has progressed beyond that and knows, “There is more than one way to do it.” Though the beginning and ending stages sound the same, the beginner\’s mind disappeared in the middle stage.

I think a more realistic aim in meditation practice is to remember or rediscover our beginner\’s mind.  Again, again, and again. Every time we meditate find a beginner\’s mind.  To everything we do, bring a beginner\’s mind.  And do it everyday.

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