Zen Proverbs

Below you will find our collection of inspirational, wise, and humorous old Zen Proverbs, Zen quotes, and Zen sayings, collected over the years from a variety of sources. Enjoy reading these insights and feel free to share this page on your social media to inspire others.

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The following Zen quotes are from people who find Zen as a great practice and who know the understanding of its meaning and purpose.

Zen (; Chán;  , , Seon; Thiền) is a school of Mahayana Buddhism that originated in China during the Tang dynasty, then known as the Chan School (Chánzong 禪宗) and later developed into various schools. It was strongly influenced by Taoist philosophy, especially Neo-Daoist thought, and developed as a distinct school of Chinese Buddhism.

Practicing Zen is believed to have a calming effect on the mind and body, which not only helps one to lead a healthy life, but also to deal with various problems efficiently. “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”, the Zen says. So, if you are ready to learn, here are a few inspirational and motivational teachings to help you lead a peaceful life.Banner Header Zen Zen Stones Peace Tranquil

‘Don’t think of what you have to do, don’t consider how to carry it out!’ he exclaimed. The shot will only go smoothly when it takes the archer himself by surprise. – Eugen Herrigel

Zen Buddhism is a discipline where belief isn’t necessary. – David Sylvian

Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes. – Alan Watts

Zen has no business with ideas. – D.T. Suzuki

Zen in it’s essence is the art of seeing into the nature of one’s being, and it points the way from bondage to freedom. – D.T. Suzuki

Zen is a liberation from time. For if we open our eyes and see clearly, it becomes obvious that there is no other time than this instant, and that the past and the future are abstractions without any concrete reality. – Alan Watts

Zen is a path of liberation. It liberates you. It is freedom from the first step to the last. You are not required to follow any rules; you are required to find out your own rules and your own life in the light of awareness. – Osho

Zen is a quiet thing. It listens. – Howard Fast

Zen is an effort to become alert and awake. – Osho

Zen is not a religion. There is no room for a cult. There is no dependence on a teacher. There is only learning how to use your own mind and making it strong. – Frederick Lenz

Zen is not an art, it’s not a religion. It’s a realisation. – Gene Clark

Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine. – Shunryu Suzuki

Zen is nothing to get excited about. – Shunryu Suzuki

Zen practice is to open up our small mind. – Shunryu Suzuki

Zen teaches nothing; it merely enables us to wake up and become aware. It does not teach, it points. – D.T. Suzuki

Zen teaches that if we can open up to the inevitability of our demise, we can begin to transform and lighten up about it. – Allen Klein

Zen teaches that once we can open up to the inevitability of our demise, we can begin to transform that situation and lighten up about it. – Allen Klein

Zen, per se, is not just an art, it’s not just a religion, it’s a realization. – Gene Clark

Zen is not some fancy, special art of living. Our teaching is just to live, always in reality, in its exact sense. To make our effort, moment after moment, is our way. In an exact sense, the only thing we actually can study in our life is that on which we are working in each moment. We cannot even study Buddha’s words.
So we should be concentrated with our full mind and body on what we do; and we should be faithful, subjectively and objectively, to ourselves, and especially to our feelings. Even when you do not feel so well, it is better to express how you feel without any particular attachment or intention. So you may say, Oh, I am sorry, I do not feel well. – Shunryu Suzuki

A beautiful woman who is pleasing to men is good only for frightening fish when she falls into the water. – Zen Proverb

A Buddha is an idle person. He doesn’t run around after fortune and fame. – Bodhidharma

A Buddha is someone who finds freedom in good fortune and bad. – Bodhidharma

A Buddhist monk has a responsibility first and foremost to themselves, and that’s to find the truth each day in every part of their life. – Frederick Lenz

A closed mouth gathers no foot. – Zen Proverb

A finger points at the moon, but the moon is not at the tip of the finger. Words points at the truth, but the truth is not in words. – Huineng

A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms. – Zen Shin

A flower falls, even though we love it; and a weed grows, even though we do not love it. – Dogen Zenji

A follower of the way has neither form nor shape, neither root nor trunk; nor dwelling place; like a fish leaping in the water. – Rinzai Zen proverb

A fool sees himself as another, but a wise man sees others as himself. – Dogen Zenji

A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at. – Bruce Lee

A good teacher opens the door for you, but you must enter the room by yourself. – Zen Proverb

A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep. – Saul Bellow

A great man is hard on himself; a small man is hard on others. – Confucius

A hut full of laughter is richer than a palace full of sadness. – Zen Proverb

A lily or a rose never pretends, and its beauty is that it is what it is. – Jiddu Krishnamurti

A man is great not because he hasn’t failed; a man is great because failure hasn’t stopped him. – Confucius

A man walking is never in balance but always correcting for imbalance. – Gregory Bateson

A mind full of preconceived ideas, subjective intentions, or habits is not open to things as they are. – Shunryu Suzuki

A mind that worries about the past is distracted, and a mind that worries about the future is delusional. – Cheng Yen

A mountain never yields to the wind no matter how strong it is. – Zen Proverb

A person who is capable of blushing cannot have a bad heart. – Zen Proverb

A strong man overcomes an obstacle, a wise man goes the whole way. – Zen Proverb

A thousand-mile journey begins with just one step. – Zen Proverb

A true Zen saying: “Nothing is what I want”. – Frank Zappa

A warrior balances solitude and dependence. – Paulo Coelho

A wise man speaks because he has something to say; a fool because he has to say something. – Plato

A zen master’s life is one continuous mistake. – Dogen Zenji

Accept everything just the way it is. – Miyamoto Musashi

Act without expectation. – Lao Tzu

Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own. – Bruce Lee

All I can guarantee you is that as long as you are searching for happiness, you will remain unhappy. U.G. – – Jiddu Krishnamurti

All know the way, but few actually walk it. – Bodhidharma

All that we are, is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become. – Buddha

All the things that truly matter, beauty, love, creativity, joy and inner peace arise from beyond the mind. – Eckhart Tolle

All things are difficult before they are easy. – Thomas Fuller

All true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of no-mind, from inner stillness. – Eckhart Tolle

Always keep an open mind and a compassionate heart. – Phil Jackson

Always look on the bright side of things. If you can’t comprehend this, polish that which has become dull until it begins to shine. – Zen Proverb

Always remember that you’re unique, just like everyone else. – Meade’s Maxim

Ambition is a disease. You’ve everything right now to be happy. Instead you’re anxious because of some incomplete goal. And you are never satisfied once you achieve a goal as it is immediately replaced by the next one. Be grateful and don’t let desires kill the joy of life. – The Ancient Sage

American dog says, ‘Woof, woof.’ Korean dog says, ‘Mung, mung.’ Polish dog says, ‘How, how.’ So which dog barking is correct? That is human beings’ barking, not ‘dog’ barking. If dog and you become one hundred percent one, then you know the sound of barking. This is Zen teaching. Boom! Become one. – Seung Sahn

An Awakened person is someone who finds freedom in good fortune and bad. – Bodhidharma

An outside enemy exists only if there is anger inside. – Thubten Zopa Rinpoche

And when they played they really played. And when they worked they really worked. – Dr. Seuss

Anger, ego, jealousy are the biggest diseases. Keep yourself aloof from these three diseases. – Sathya Sai Baba

Any effort that has self-glorification as its final endpoint is bound to end in disaster. – Robert M. Pirsig

Any enlightenment which requires to be authenticated, certified, recognized, congratulated, is false, or at least incomplete. – R.H. Blyth

Any experience of reality is indescribable!. – R. D. Laing

Any love is a home-sickness, a longing for a lost paradise. – Jean Klein

Approach the game with no preset agendas and you’ll probably come away surprised at your overall efforts. – Phil Jackson

Are you attached to the old and the dead or detached, dynamic and alert to the present?Maxime Lagacé

As a bee gathering nectar does not harm or disturb the color & fragrance of the flower; so do the wise move through the world. – Buddha

As long as we remain within the confines of the thinking mind, we can’t experience the state of non-thinking. If we can’t experience non-thinking, we will not understand what our life truly is. Please realize this for yourself! Just sit. – Taizan Maezumi

As soon as you sense any lingering or obstruction, all of it is false imagining. Just make your mind clean and free, like space, like a mirror, like the sun in the sky. – Yuan Wu

As you become more and more deeply rooted in witnessing, thoughts start disappearing. You are, but the mind is utterly empty. – Osho

At the still-point in the center of the circle one can see the infinite in all things. – Chuang Tzu

At the still-point in the center of the circle one can see the infinite in all things. – Zen Proverb

Attack the evil that is within yourself, rather than attacking the evil that is in others. – Confucius

Awareness allows us get outside of your mind and observe it in action. – Dan Brule

Awareness is the greatest agent for change. – Eckhart Tolle

Balance is the perfect state of still water. Let that be our model. It remains quiet within and is not disturbed on the surface. – Confucius

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. – Dalai Lama

Be master of mind rather than mastered by mind. – Zen Proverb

Be present above all else. – Naval Ravikant

Be soft in your practice. Think of the method as a fine silvery stream, not a raging waterfall. – Sheng-yen

Be true to the thought of the moment and avoid distraction. Other than continuing to exert yourself, enter into nothing else, but go to the extent of living single thought by single thought. – Yamamoto Tsunetomo

Become comfortable with not knowing. – Eckhart Tolle

Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. – Buddha

Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes. – Zen Proverb

Being attached to someone is not about the other person. It is about your own sense of inadequacy. – Jaggi Vasudev

Better to see the face than to hear the name. – Zen Proverb

Better to sit all night than to go to bed with a dragon. – Zen Proverb

Better to struggle with a sick jackass than carry the wood by yourself. – Zen Proverb

Body and mind dropped off. – Dogen Zenji

Breath by breath, let go of fear, expectation, anger, regret, cravings, frustration, fatigue. Let go of the need for approval. Let go of old judgments and opinions. Die to all that, and fly free. Soar in the freedom of desirelessness. – Lama Surya Das

Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure. – Oprah Winfrey

Buddha means awareness, the awareness of body and mind that prevents evil from arising in either. – Bodhidharma

Buddhism may be summed up in two phrases: “Let go!” and “Walk on!”. – Alan Watts

Buddhism teaches that joy and happiness arise from letting go. Please sit down and take an inventory of your life. There are things you’ve been hanging on to that really are not useful and deprive you of your freedom. Find the courage to let them go. – Thich Nhat Hanh

But as long as you think you are practicing zazen for the sake of something, that is not true practice. – Shunryu Suzuki

But opinions, judgments, memories, dreaming about the future—ninety percent of the thoughts spinning around in our heads have no essential reality. – Joko Beck

But people of the deepest understanding look within, distracted by nothing. Since a clear mind is the Buddha, they attain the understanding of a Buddha without using the mind. – Bodhidharma

Calmness in activity is true calmness. – Shunryu Suzuki

Cease from practice based on intellectual understanding, pursuing words, and following after speech. – Dogen Zenji

Children are natural Zen masters; their world is brand new in each and every moment. – John Bradshaw

Chop wood, carry water. – Zen Proverb

Clear mind is like the full moon in the sky. Sometimes clouds come and cover it, but the moon is always behind them. Clouds go away, then the moon shines brightly. So don’t worry about clear mind: it is always there. When thinking comes, behind it is clear mind. When thinking goes, there is only clear mind. Thinking comes and goes, comes and goes, You must not be attached to the coming or the going. – Seungsahn

Confuse them with your silence and amaze them with your actions. – Zen Proverb

Consider your own place in the universal oneness of which we are all a part, from which we all arise, and to which we all return. – David Fontana

Countless words count less than the silent balance between yin and yang. – Lao Tzu

Craziness is good. Crazy people are happy, free, they have no hindrance. But since you have many attachment, you are only a little crazy. This is not crazy enough. You must become completely crazy. Then you will understand. – Seungsahn

Detachment is necessary for peace, and peace is necessary for happiness. – Naval Ravikant

Distraction is the main problem for us all – what the Buddha called the monkey mind. We need to tame this monkey mind. – Tenzin Palmo

Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. – Bruce Lee

Do not be too interested in Zen. – Shunryu Suzuki

Do not be trapped by the need to achieve anything. This way, you achieve everything. – Frank Herbert

Do not become caught in the teaching. You must be able to let it go. – Thich Nhat Hanh

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment. – Buddha

Do not follow the idea of others, but learn to listen to the voice within yourself. – Dōgen Zenji

Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace. – Dalai Lama

Do not look for a sanctuary in anyone except your self. – Buddha

Do Not Permit The Events Of Your Daily Lives To Bind You, But Never Withdraw Yourselves From Them. Only By Acting Thus Can You Earn The Title Of ‘A Liberated One’. – Huang Po

Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one. – Bruce Lee

Do not seek the truth, only cease to cherish your opinions. – Seng-ts’an

Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought. – Basho

Do not think you will necessarily be aware of your own enlightenment. – Dogen Zenji

Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me either. Just pretty much leave me the hell alone. – Zen Proverb

Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear? – Lao Tzu

Doffing the ego’s safe glory, he finds his naked reality. – Dag Hammarskjöld

Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing. – Lao Tzu

Don’t be afraid that you do not know something. Be afraid of not learning about it. – Zen Proverb

Don’t be afraid to go slowly. Be afraid of stopping. – Zen Proverb

Don’t be afraid to just sit and watch. – Anthony Bourdain

Don’t be irreplaceable. If you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted. – Zen Proverb

Don’t be satisfied with your accomplishment, nor be dissatisfied with it. – Zen Proverb

Don’t curse the darkness, light a candle. – Confucius

Don’t fear failure. Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail. – Bruce Lee

Don’t seek, don’t search, don’t ask, don’t knock, don’t demand: relax. – Osho

Don’t speak if it doesn’t improve on silence. – Zen Proverb

Don’t try to steer the river. – Deepak Chopra

Don’t wait for the man standing in the snow to cut off his arm. Help him now. – Ikkyu

Don’t waste your time chasing butterflies. Mend your garden, and the butterflies will come. – Mario Quintana

Don’t seek, don’t search, don’t ask, don’t knock, don’t demand – relax. – Osho

Doubt everything. Find your own light. – Buddha

Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future. – Thich Nhat Hanh

Drop the craving for self, for permanence, for particular circumstances, and go straight ahead with the movement of life. – Alan Watts

Duct tape is like ‘The Force’. It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together. – Zen Proverb

Each morning, we are born again. What we do today is what matters most. – Buddha

Each step along the Buddha’s path to happiness requires practising mindfulness until it becomes part of your daily life. – Henepola Gunaratana

Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace. – Confucius

Emotionally we have many problems, but these problems are not actual problems; they are something created; they are problems pointed out by our self-centered ideas or views. – Shunryu Suzuki

Emptiness which is conceptually liable to be mistaken for sheer nothingness is in fact the reservoir of infinite possibilities. – D.T. Suzuki

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend. – Bruce Lee

Enlightenment is intimacy with all things. – Dogen Zenji

Enlightenment is not something you achieve. It is the absence of something. All your life you have been going forward after something, pursuing some goal. Enlightenment is dropping all that. – Joko Beck

Even a good thing isn’t as good as nothing. – Chien-ju

Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely. – Buddha

Even if it seems certain that you will lose, retaliate. Neither wisdom nor technique has a place in this. A real man does not think of victory or defeat. He plunges recklessly towards an irrational death. By doing this, you will awaken from your dreams. – Yamamoto Tsunetomo

Even if you stumble and fall down, it doesn’t mean you’ve chosen the wrong path. – Zen Proverb

Even the happiness of a fool is a stupid kind of happiness. – Zen Proverb

Even to be attached to the idea of enlightenment is to go astray. – Sengcan

Every being is in search of truth, but small fears go on preventing you. – Osho

Every day passes whether you participate or not. – Ming Dao Deng

Every experience is a lesson. Every loss is a gain. – Sathya Sai Baba

Everyday life is the way. – Zen Proverb

Everyone seems normal until you get to know them. – Zen Proverb

Everything that happens to you is a form of instruction if you pay attention. – Robert Greene

Everything that has a beginning has an ending. Make your peace with that and all will be well. – Jack Kornfield

Everything the same; everything distinct. – Chien-ju

Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it. – Zen Proverb

Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. – Yoda

Flow with whatever may happen, and let your mind be free: Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate. – Chuang-Tzu

Follow the stream, have faith in its course. It will go on its own way, meandering here, trickling there. It will find the grooves, the cracks, the crevices. Just follow it. Never let it out of your sight. It will take you. – Sheng-yen

For the beginner, practice without effort is not true practice. – Shunryu Suzuki

For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them. – Thích Nhat Hanh

For your past, for your flaws, and ultimately for your stress; I judge no one whom I’ve met along the way because in a sense we were all wounded in our own ways. – Forrest Curran

Forget the years, forget distinctions. Leap into the boundless and make it your home. – Zhuangzi

From the withered tree, a flower blooms. – Zen Proverb

Generally speaking, you aren’t learning much when your lips are moving. – Zen Proverb

Give a bowl of rice to a man and you will feed him for a day. Teach him how to grow his own rice and you will save his life. – Confucius

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day. – Zen Proverb

Golf is a spiritual game. It’s like Zen. You have to let your mind take over. – Amy Alcott

Good judgment comes from bad experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment. – Zen Proverb

Great Faith. Great Doubt. Great Effort. – The three qualities necessary for training. – Zen Proverb

Guilt, regret, resentment, sadness & all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past & not enough presence. – Eckhart Tolle

Happiness is here, and now. – Thích Nhất Hạnh

Happiness only comes when you let go of who you think you are. If you think you’re wealthy and powerful and noble and truthful or horrible and demonic, whatever it may be, it’s all a waste of time. – Frederick Lenz

Harmonizing opposites by going back to their source is the distinctive quality of the Zen attitude, the Middle Way: embracing contradictions, making a synthesis of them, achieving balance. – Taisen Deshimaru

Hating someone makes them important. Forgiving them makes them obsolete. – Zen Proverb

Have a mind that is open to everything and attached to nothing. – Tilopa

Have good trust in yourself … not in the One that you think you should be, but in the One that you are. – Maezumi Roshi

Have the fearless attitude of a hero and the loving heart of a child. – Soyen Shaku

Having plants and flowers in my space makes me feel very calm and Zen. For me, it’s important to meditate every morning to be very clear in the head, and nature really helps me do the same thing. – Nicola Formichetti

He knows not where he’s going, for the ocean will decide. It’s not the destination; it’s the glory of the ride. – Edward Monkton

He who is in harmony with the Tao is like a newborn child. Its bones are soft, its muscles are weak, but its grip is powerful. – Lao Tzu

He who is self-conceited has no superiority allowed to him. – Lao Tzu

He who knows, does not speak. He who speaks, does not know. – Lao Tzu

He who loves with purity considers not the gift of the lover, but the love of the giver. – Thomas a Kempis

Heaven & earth & I are of the same root. Ten thousand things & I are of one substance. – Sêng-chao

Heaven and earth and I are of the same root, The ten-thousand things and I are of one substance. – Seng-chao

Here it is – right now. Start thinking about it and you miss it. – Huang Po

Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. – Buddha

However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act on upon them? – Buddha

Humility before the flower at the timber line is the gate which gives access to the path up the open fell. – Dag Hammarskjöld

I actually shoot. I enjoy target practice. I find it really zen. You focus on nothing but the target. You have to control your breathing. It’s all part of my years in the military, where I was taught to become a marksman but also to respect my weapon. – Tammy Duckworth

I am not devaluing thoughts. Just do not mix up what we think with what actually is. – Taizan Maezumi

I cannot tell you any spiritual truth that you don’t know already. All I can do is remind you of what you have forgotten. – Eckhart Tolle

I come to realize that mind is no other than mountains and rivers and the great wide earth, the sun and the moon and stars. – Dogen Zenji

I consider writing practice a true Zen practice because it all comes back at you. You can’t fool anyone because it’s on the page. – Natalie Goldberg

I discovered that it is necessary, absolutely necessary, to believe in nothing. That is, we have to believe in something which has no form and no color–something which exists before all forms and colors appear… No matter what god or doctrine you believe in, if you become attached to it, your belief will be based more or less on a self-centered idea. – Shunryu Suzuki

I don’t hold on to anything, don’t reject anything; nowhere an obstacle or conflict. – Layman Pang

I don’t let go of concepts – I meet them with understanding. Then they let go of me. – Byron Katie

I don’t mind what happens. That is the essence of inner freedom. – Jiddu Krishnamurti

I don’t let go of concepts – I meet them with understanding. Then they let go of me. – Byron Katie

I feel cut off only because I am split within myself, because I try to be divided from my own feelings and sensations. What I feel and sense therefore seems foreign to me. And on being aware of the unreality of this division, the universe does not seem foreign any more. – Alan Watts

I feel I’m pretty zen and laid back. I don’t have a lot of rage in my real life. – Stark Sands

I follow four dictates: face it, accept it, deal with it, then let it go. – Sheng-yen

I gave it my body and mind, but I have kept my soul. – Phil Jackson

I have lived with several Zen masters — all of them cats. – Eckhart Tolle

I haven’t learned how to confront a problem by avoiding it. – Brian Spellman

I live by four simple words. Love. Being. Here. Now. – Todd Crawshaw

I live by letting things happen. – Dogen Zenji

I never think of the future – it comes soon enough. – Albert Einstein

I never thought much about God, certainly never wondered whether God was thinking about me until I fell in love with a Zen Buddhist priest. – Stacey D’Erasmo

I read a lot of Zen books. And I grew up surfing, so that has always been my escape. – Liam Hemsworth

I think about death a lot, I really do, because I can’t believe I won’t exist. It’s the ego, isn’t it? I feel that I should retreat into a better form of Zen Buddhism than this kind of ego-dominated thing. But I don’t know, I mean, I want to come back as a tree but I suspect that it’s just not going to happen, is it? – Kate Atkinson

I think any spiritual experience that’s worthwhile is not about ego and it will humble you in some way. And also, a Zen monk once said to me, ‘If you’re not laughing, then you’re not getting it.’ – David O. Russell

I think that that’s why artists make art, it is difficult to put into words unless you are a poet. What it takes is being open to the flow of universal creativity. The Zen artists knew this. – Alex Grey

I’m a walker, whether that’s a stroll on the beach at sunset or getting up at eight o’clock on a Sunday morning and doing an eight-hour hike through a canyon. It’s Zen time for me. – Lara Pulver

I’m here to tell you that the path to peace is right there, when you want to get away. – Pema Chödrön

I’ve been studying the cultures of Asia for many years, and I’m very attracted to the culture of Japan, in particular to the impact Zen has had on the Japanese mind and spirit. – Mahavishnu John McLaughlin

If a warrior is not unattached to life and death, he will be of no use whatsoever. – Yamamoto Tsunetomo

If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you. – Zen Proverb

If moment by moment you can keep your mind clear then nothing will confuse you. – Sheng-yen

If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. – Bruce Lee

If we are always demanding something out of life, then we will never be content. But if we accept life as it is, then we will know contentment. – Thich Thien-An

If we do not know how to take care of ourselves and to love ourselves, we cannot take care of the people we love. Loving oneself is the foundation for loving another person. – Thích Nhất Hạnh

If we don’t occupy ourself with everything, then peaceful mind will have nowhere to abide. – Shen-hui

If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present. – Lao Tzu

If you are unable to find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it? – Dogen Zenji

If you are under control, you lose the danger of glimpsing an unknown realm. – Kazuaki Tanahashi

If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present. – Lao Tzu

If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. – Robert M. Pirsig

If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it? – Dogen Zenji

If you chase two rabbits, you catch none. – Confucius

If you cry because the sun has gone out of your life, your tears will prevent you from seeing the stars. – Rabindranath Tagore

If you do not get it from yourself, Where will you go for it? – Zen Proverb

If you ever feel you are worthless remember that you are full of expensive organs. – Zen Proverb

If you forget yourself, you become the universe. – Hakuin Ekaku

If you have a glass full of liquid you can discourse forever on its qualities, discuss whether it is cold, warm, whether it is really and truly composed of H–O, or even mineral water, or sake. Meditation is Drinking it. – Taisen Deshimaru

If you have inner peace, nobody can force you to be a slave to the outer reality. – Sri Chinmoy

If you haven’t wept deeply, you haven’t begun to meditate. – Ajahn Chah

If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles. – Sun Tzu

If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it. – Zen Proverb

If you miss the present moment, you miss your appointment with life. That is very serious! – Thich Nhat Hanh

If you realize you have enough, you are truly rich. – Lao Tzu

If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done. – Bruce Lee

If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of car payments. – Zen Proverb

If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito. – Dalai Lama

If you try to change it, you will ruin it. Try to hold it, and you will lose it. – Lao Tzu

If you understand, things are just as they are; if you do not understand, things are just as they are. – Zen Proverb

If you use your mind to study reality, you won’t understand either your mind or reality. If you study reality without using your mind, you’ll understand both. – Bodhidharma

If you want a certain thing, you must first be a certain person. Once you are that certain person, obtaining that certain thing will no longer be a concern of yours. – Zen Proverb

If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else. – Confucius

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. – Dalai Lama

If you want something then you lose everything. If you don’t want anything then you already have everything. – Seungsahn

If you want to change the world, start with the next person who comes to you in need. – B. D. Schiers

If you want to travel the Way of Buddhas and Zen masters, then expect nothing, seek nothing, and grasp nothing. – Dogen Zenji

If you would spend all your time – walking, standing, sitting or lying down – learning to halt the concept-forming activities of your own mind, you could be sure of ultimately attaining the goal. – Huang Po

If you’ve made a mistake, it’s better just to laugh at it. – Zen Proverb

If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. – Shunryu Suzuki

If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life. – Wu-Men

If you’re attached to anything, you surely will go far astray. – Zen Proverb

I’m here to tell you that the path to peace is right there, when you want to get away. – Pema Chödrön

In a controversy the instant we feel anger we have already ceased striving for the truth, and have begun striving for ourselves. – Buddha

In a mind clear as still water, even the waves, breaking, are reflecting its light. – Dogen Zenji

In contemplation, one’s mind should be stable and unmoving, like a wall. – Bodhidharma

In deep self acceptance, grows a compassionate understanding. – Jack Kornfield

In studying the way, realizing it is hard; once you have realized it, preserving it is hard. When you can preserve it, putting it into practice is hard. – Zen Proverb

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few. – Shunryu Suzuki

In the dressing room, we’ve just made it really Zen: low lighting, lots of candles, and fresh, healthy food. – Flume

In the highest level a man has the look of knowing nothing. – Yamamoto Tsunetomo

In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity. – Sun Tzu

In the scenery of spring, nothing is better, nothing worse; the flowering branches are; some long, some short. – Eicho

In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true. – Buddha

In the stillness of the mind I saw myself as I am – unbound. – Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

In Zen we have no gurus. – Frederick Lenz

It all depends on you. You can go on sleeping forever, you can wake up right this moment. – Osho

It is a timeless spiritual truth: release attachment to outcomes, deep inside yourself, you’ll feel good no matter what. – Jiddu Krishnamurti

It is a wretched thing that the young men of today are so contriving and so proud of their material possessions. Men with contriving hearts are lacking in duty. Lacking in duty, they will have no self-respect. – Yamamoto Tsunetomo

It is easier for the world to accept a simple lie than a complex truth. – Alexis de Tocqueville

It is easy to believe we are each waves and forget we are also the ocean. – Jon J. Muth

It is only with total humility, and in absolute stillness of mind that we can know what indeed we are. – Wei Wu Wei

It is simply sitting silently, witnessing the thoughts, passing before you. Just witnessing, not interfering not even judging, because the moment you judge you have lost the pure witness. – Osho

It is the nature of the wise to resist pleasures, but the foolish to be a slave to them. – Epictetus

It is the power of the mind to be unconquerable. – Seneca

It is when your practice is rather greedy that you become discouraged with it. – Shunryu Suzuki

It isn’t that we’re alone or not alone. Whose voice do you want? Mine? Yours? – Ikkyu

It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

It takes a wise man to learn from his mistakes, but an even wiser man to learn from others. – Zen Proverb

It will take quite a long time before you find your calm, serene mind in your practice. – Shunryu Suzuki

It’s always darkest before dawn. So if you’re going to steal your neighbor’s newspaper, that’s the time to do it. – Zen Proverb

It’s beautiful to be alone. To be alone does not mean to be lonely. It means the mind is not influenced and contaminated by society. – Jiddu Krishnamurti

It’s better be a person for a day than to be a shadow for days. – Zen Proverb

It’s not about approving or liking, but just being able to allow the world to be the way it is without resenting, hating, or judging it. – Zen Proverb

Just as a snake sheds its skin, we must shed our past over and over again. – Buddha

Just as parents care for their children, you should bear in mind the whole universe. – Dogen Zenji

Just let things be in their own way and there will be neither coming nor going. – Sengcan

Keep it simple and focus on what matters. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed. – Confucius

Keep your heart clear and transparent, and you will never be bound. A single disturbed thought creates ten thousand distractions. – Ryōkan

Knock on the sky and Listen to the sound. – Zen Proverb

Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. – Lao Tzu

Knowledge is learning something everyday. Wisdom is letting go of something everyday. – Zen Proverb

Learn to be comfortable in adversity but most importantly, learn to be comfortable when you’re bored. – Maxime Lagacé

Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it. – Ray Bradbury

Learning Zen is a phenomenon of gold & dung. Before you learn it, it’s like gold; after you learn it, it’s like dung. – Zen Proverb

Let go over a cliff, die completely, and then come back to life — after that you cannot be deceived. – Zen Proverb

Let go, or be dragged. – Zen Proverb

Let go. Let Be. See through everything and be free, complete, luminous, at home — at ease. – Lama Surya Das

Let your mind wander in the pure and simple. Be one with the infinite. Let all things take their course. – Chuang Tzu

Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free. – Thich Nhat Hanh

Letting go is the lesson. Letting go is always the lesson. Have you ever noticed how much of our agony is all tied up with craving and loss? – Susan Gordon Lydon

Letting go takes a lot of courage sometimes. But once you let go, happiness comes very quickly. You won’t have to go around search for it. – Thich Nhat Hanh

Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath. Every moment is the guru. – Joko Beck

Life and death are of supreme importance. Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost. Each of us should strive to awaken. Awaken! Take heed, do not squander your life. – Dogen Zenji

Life begins where fear ends. – Osho

Life is a balance between rest and movement. – Rajneesh

Life is a balance of holding on and letting go. – Jalaluddin Rumi

Life is a journey. Time is a river. The door is ajar. – Jim Butcher

Life is a second-by-second miracle. – Joko Beck

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving. – Albert Einstein

Life is like stepping onto a boat which is about to sail out to sea and sink. – Shunryu Suzuki

Life is more or less a lie, but then again, that’s exactly the way we want it to be. – Bob Dylan

Life is not easy, unfair, surprising, and painful. Get used to it. – Maxime Lagacé

Life isn’t as serious as the mind makes it out to be. – Eckhart Tolle

Life is the only thing worth living for. – Zen Proverb

Like vanishing dew, a passing apparition or the sudden flash of lightning, already gone, thus should one regard one’s self. – Ikkyu

Little people overwhelmed by emotions. Zen people are calm and detached. Maxime Lagacé

Little people reject reality which brings confusion. Zen people accept reality which brings understanding. – Maxime Lagacé

Little people seek lasting happiness in the material world. Zen people seek understanding first and then find lasting peace. – Maxime Lagacé

Little people try to control everything. Thus, they control nothing. Wise people focus on one thing, the most important, and let go of the rest. – Maxime Lagacé

Live calmly. The time will come when the flowers bloom by themselves. – Zen Proverb

Live the life in front of you, be the life you are, and see what you find out for yourself. – Karen Maezen Miller

Lose yourself in nothing to become everything; Relax into an infinite deep sea of coherent energy; Keep unfolding deeper and deeper into oneness; Continuously let go of control; Feel greater and greater degrees of wholeness. – Joe Dispenza

Love all. Serve all. Help ever. Hurt never. – Sathya Sai Baba

Love is the absence of judgment. – Dalai Lama

Man stands in his own shadow and wonders why it is dark. – Zen Proverb

Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun. – Alan W. Watts

Many have died; you also will die. The drum of death is being beaten. The world has fallen in love with a dream. Only sayings of the wise will remain. – Kabir

Matters of great concern should be treated lightly. Matters of small concern should be treated seriously. – Yamamoto Tsunetomo

Meditation is a secular practice, not a religious practice. – Abhijit Naskar

Meditation is the ultimate mobile device; you can use it anywhere, anytime, unobtrusively. – Sharon Salzberg

Melting our attachment to self is the most powerful medication for bringing mental and emotional imbalances in check. – Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche

Mind is like a mad monkey. – Sathya Sai Baba

Mistakes are always forgivable if one has the courage to admit them. – Bruce Lee

More important than any stage which you will attain is your sincerity, your right effort. – Shunryu Suzuki

Move and the way will open. – Zen Proverb

Movement is evil. Being still is good. – Ben Caesar

Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone. – Alan Watts

My blogging life is basically goalless. I like the zen nature of that, and paradoxically, it improves results. – Seth Godin

My daily affairs are quite ordinary; but I’m in total harmony with them. – Layman Pang

My experience is that the teachers we need most are the people we’re living with right now. – Byron Katie

My feeling or philosophy is closer to Taoism and Zen Buddhism, ’cause it’s the most practical. – Harry Dean Stanton

My finger can point to the moon, but my finger is not the moon. You don’t have to become my finger, nor do you have to worship my finger. You have to forget my finger, and look at where it is pointing. – Osho

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. – Lao Tzu

Never test the depth of the water with both feet. – Zen Proverb

Next to love, balance is the most important thing. – John Wooden

Nirvana means to extinguish the burning fires of the Three Poisons: greed, anger, and ignorance. This can be accomplished by letting go of dissatisfaction. – Shinjo Ito

No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change. – Thích Nhat Hanh

No matter what happens, somebody will find a way to take it too seriously. – Zen Proverb

No one returns from a long journey the same person they were before. – Zen Proverb

No snowflake ever falls in the wrong place. – Zen Proverb

No thought, no reflection, no analysis, no cultivation, no intention; let it settle itself. – Tilopa

No word matters. But man forgets reality and remembers words. – Roger Zelazny

Not being tense but ready. Not thinking but not dreaming. Not being set but flexible. Liberation from the uneasy sense of confinement. It is being wholly and quietly alive, aware and alert, ready for whatever may come. – Bruce Lee

Not creating delusions is enlightenment. – Bodhidharma

Not engaging in ignorance is wisdom. – Bodhidharma

Not knowing how near the truth is, we seek it far away. – Hakuin Ekaku

Not the wind, not the flag; mind is moving. – Zen Kōan 29 

Not thinking about anything is Zen. Once you know this, walking, sitting, or lying down, everything you do is Zen. – Bodhidharma

Not till your thoughts cease all their branching here and there, not till you abandon all thoughts of seeking for something, not till your mind is motionless as wood or stone, will you be on the right road to the Gate. – Huang Po

Nothing divides one so much as thought. – R.H. Blyth

Nothing ever exists entirely alone. Everything is in relation to everything else. – Buddha

Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. – Pema Chödrön

Nothing has ever existed except this moment. That’s all there is. That’s all we are. Yet most human beings spend 50 to 90 percent or more of their time in their imagination, living in fantasy. We think about what has happened to us, what might have happened, how we feel about it, how we should be different, how others should be different, how it’s all a shame, and on and on. – Joko Beck

Nothing on earth can overcome an absolutely nonresistant person. – Florence Scovel Shinn

Now I know what success is: living your truth, sharing it. – Kamal Ravikant

Nurture your mind with great thoughts, for you will never go any higher than you think. – Benjamin Disraeli

Obey the nature of things (your own nature), and you will walk freely and undisturbed. – Sengcan

Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend, or a meaningful day. – Dalai Lama

Once you stop clinging and let things be, you’ll be free, even of birth and death. You’ll transform everything. – Bodhidharma

One day a student asked Taiga, “What is the most difficult part of painting?” Taiga answered, “The part of the paper where nothing is painted is the most difficult.” – Painting Zen

One has not understood until one has forgotten it. – D.T. Suzuki

One loses joy and happiness in the attempt to possess them. – Masanobu Fukuoka

One moon shows in every pool, in every pool the one moon. – Zen Proverb

One must be deeply aware of the impermanence of the world. – Dogen Zenji

One thing I like about Zen, it doesn’t believe in achievement. – Agnes Martin

One thing, all things: move among and intermingle, without distinction. To live in this realization is to be without anxiety about non-perfection. To live in this faith is the road to non-duality, because the non-dual is one with the trusting mind. – Sengcan

One who conquers himself is greater than another who conquers a thousand times a thousand on the battlefield. – Buddha

Only the crystal-clear question yields a transparent answer.

Only the hand that erases can write the true thing. – Meister Eckhart

Only when you can be extremely pliable and soft can you be extremely hard and strong. – Zen Proverb

Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values. – Dalai Lama

Our opinions have no permanence; like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away. – Zhuangzi

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them. – Dalai Lama

Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion. – Buddha

Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely but striving for such achievement is, in itself, a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security. – Albert Einstein

Our way is not to sit to acquire something; it is to express our true nature. That is our practice. – Shunryu Suzuki

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about. – Jalaluddin Rumi

Pain doesn’t last. And when it’s gone, we have something to show for it. Growth. – Kamal Ravikant

Patience from a Buddhist perspective is not a “wait and see” attitude, but rather one of “just be there”. – Lodro Rinzler

Peace of mind is that mental condition in which you have accepted the worst. – Lin Yutang

Peace of mind produces right values, right values produce right thoughts. Right thoughts produce right actions. – Mark Richardson

People living deeply have no fear of death. – Anais Nin

People of this world are deluded. They’re always longing for something – always, in a word, seeking. – Bodhidharma

People sleep, and when they die they wake. – Muhammad

People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle. – Thích Nhat Hanh

Power over others is weakness disguised as strength. True power is within & available to you now. – Eckhart Tolle

Practice is this life, and realization is this life, and this life is revealed right here and now. – Maezumi Roshi

Prefer to be defeated in the presence of the wise than to excel among fools. – Dōgen Zenji

Preparing food is not just about yourself and others. It is about everything! – Shunryu Suzuki

Purity is something that cannot be attained except by piling effort upon effort. – Yamamoto Tsunetomo

Pursue not the outer entanglements; dwell not in the inner void; be serene in the oneness of things; and dualism vanishes by itself. – Sengcan

Realisation is a matter of becoming conscious of that which is already realised. – Wei Wu Wei

Reality has no inside, outside, or middle part. – Bodhidharma

Reality is created by the mind, we can change our reality by changing our mind. – Plato

Recognize the ego for what it is: a collective dysfunction, the insanity of the human mind. – Eckhart Tolle

Relax. Nothing is under control. – Adi Da

Relax. Nothing’s missing. – Maxime Lagacé

Respect life, revere life. There is nothing more holy than life, nothing more divine than life. – Osho

Rest and be kind, you don’t have to prove anything. – Jack Kerouac

Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day. – A. A. Milne

Roads were made for journeys not destinations. – Confucius

See and realize that this world is not permanent. Neither late nor early flowers will remain. – Ryōkan

Self-realization is effortless. What you are trying to find is what you already are. – Ramesh Balsekar

Silence is the language of Om. We need silence to be able to reach our Self. Both internal and external silence is very important to feel the presence of that supreme Love. – Amit Ray

Since we desire the true happiness that is brought about by a calm mind, and such peace of mind arises only from having a compassionate attitude, we need to make a concerted effort to develop compassion. – Dalai Lama

Sincerity itself is the railroad track. – Shunryu Suzuki

Single mindedness is all-powerful. – Yamamoto Tsunetomo

Sit, walk, or run, but don’t wobble. – Zen Proverb

Sitting quietly, doing nothing, Spring comes, and the grass grows, by itself. – Matsuo Basho

Sleep is the best meditation. – Dalai Lama

Smile, breathe and go slowly. – Thích Nhất Hạnh

So if you do something, you should be observant, and careful, and alert. – Shunryu Suzuki

Some days you’re the bug; some days you’re the windshield. – Zen Proverb

Someone who points out your flaws to you is not necessarily your enemy. Someone who speaks of your virtues is not necessarily your friend. – Zen Proverb

Still water has no mind to receive the image of the migrating geese. – Zen Proverb

Still your waters. – Josh Waitzkin

Stress is caused by being “here” but wanting to be “there”. – Eckhart Tolle

Suffering is when we resist the moment. – Kamal Ravikant

Surfing soothes me, it’s always been a kind of Zen experience for me. The ocean is so magnificent, peaceful, and awesome. The rest of the world disappears for me when I’m on a wave. – Paul Walker

Tao in the world is like a river flowing home to the sea. – Lao Tzu

Taoism has no rules. It’s a suggestion for perceiving life in its wholeness, without unnecessary categorization, yet enjoying the beauty of categorization. – Frederick Lenz

Taoism is simply the complete acceptance of yourself as you are right in this moment. – Sheila M. Burke

Taoism is the gentle way. The path of least resistance. – Frederick Lenz

Taoism is the profoundest nonconformism that has ever been evolved anywhere in the world, at any time in history; essentially it is rebellion. – Osho

Taoism is the way of water. The most frequent element or symbol referred to in Lao Tzu’s writings is the symbol of water. – Frederick Lenz

Taoism is a way of liberation, which never comes by means of revolution, since it is notorious that most revolutions establish worse tyrannies than they destroy. – Alan Watts

Technical knowledge is not enough. One must transcend techniques so that the art becomes an artless art, growing out of the unconscious. – D.T. Suzuki

The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence. – Jiddu Krishnamurti

The aim of spiritual life is to awaken a joyful freedom, a benevolent and compassionate heart in spite of everything. – Jack Kornfield

The art of living… is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging to the past on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive. – Alan Watts

The best cure for the body is a quiet mind. – Napoleon Bonaparte

The best leaders of all, the people know not they exist. They turn to each other and say We did it ourselves.– Lao Tzu

The best time to plant a tree was years ago. The second best time is now. – Zen Proverb

The Buddha talked about saving all beings from delusion, not converting them to a new religion. – Zen Proverb

The essence of the Way is detachment. – Bodhidharma

The farther away you are from the truth, the more the hateful and pleasurable states will arise. – Bodhidharma

The first and the best victory is to conquer self. – Plato

The flame that burns Twice as bright burns half as long. – Lao Tzu

The foolish reject what they see, not what they think; the wise reject what they think, not what they see. – Huang Po

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. – Eleanor Roosevelt

The goal in life is to die young, but to do as late as possible. – Zen Proverb

The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner’s mind. – Shunryu Suzuki

The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences.

The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent everything becomes clear and undisguised. Make the smallest distinction, however, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart. If you wish to see the truth then hold no opinion for or against. – Sengcan

The greatest effort is not concerned with results. – Atisha

The ignorant mind, with its infinite afflictions, passions, and evils, is rooted in the three poisons. Greed, anger, and delusion. – Bodhidharma

The infinite is in the finite of every instant. – Zen Proverb

The instant you speak about a thing, you miss the mark. – Zen Proverb

The intuitive recognition of the instant, thus reality… is the highest act of wisdom. – D.T. Suzuki

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. – Lao Tzu

The less you try to impress, the more peaceful you can be. – Maxime Lagacé

The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life. – Confucius

The man who moved the mountain was the one who began carrying away the smallest stones. – Zen Proverb

The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves. – Alan Watts

The memory of everything is very soon overwhelmed in time. – Marcus Aurelius

The menu is not the meal. – Alan Watts

The mind is the root from which all things grow. If you can understand the mind, everything else is included. – Bodhidharma

The mind of the beginner is empty, free of the habits of the expert, ready to accept, to doubt, and open to all the possibilities. – Shunryu Suzuki

The mind should be as a mirror. – Zen Proverb

The mind: A beautiful servant, a dangerous master. – Osho

The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive. – Thich Nhat Hanh

The moon does not fight. It attacks no one. It does not worry. It does not try to crush others. It keeps to its course, but by its very nature, it gently influences. What other body could pull an entire ocean from shore to shore? The moon is faithful to its nature and its power is never diminished. – Ming-Dao Deng

The more a thing tends to be permanent, the more it tends to be lifeless. – Alan Watts

The more I expect things to be a certain way, the more I reject reality, the more I risk being disappointed. – Maxime Lagacé

The more we value things, the less we value ourselves. – Bruce Lee

The more you know, the less you need. – Yvon Chouinard

The more you suffer the deeper grows your character, and with the deepening of your character you read the more penetratingly into the secrets of life. All great artists, all great religious leaders, and all great social reformers have come out of the intensest struggles which they fought bravely, quite frequently in tears and with bleeding hearts. – D.T. Suzuki

The more you talk and think about it, the further astray you wander from the truth. Stop talking and thinking and there is nothing you will not be able to know. – Sengcan

The more Zen and balanced you are, the more your actions are quality. You’re all in. – Maxime Lagacé

The most important point is to accept yourself and stand on your two feet. – Shunryu Suzuki

The most transformative experience has been the simple act of loving myself. – Kamal Ravikant

The noble-minded are calm and steady. Little people are forever fussing and fretting. – Confucius

The object of your desire is not an object. – Jack Gardner

The obstacle is the path. – Zen Proverb

The one who is good at shooting does not hit the center of the target. – Zen Proverb

The only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking at this moment. That’s all there ever is. – Eckhart Tolle

The only Zen you can find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there. – Robert M. Pirsig

The personal life deeply lived always expands into truths beyond itself. – Anais Nin

The phrase that I use the most to myself in my head is one word: accept. – Naval Ravikant

The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands. – Robert M. Pirsig

The practice of Zen is forgetting the self in the act of uniting with something. – Koun Yamada

The purpose of our lives is to be happy. – Dalai Lama

The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket. – Zen Proverb

The resistance to the unpleasant situation is the root of suffering. – Ram Dass

The saint is a man who disciplines his ego. The sage is a man who rids himself of his ego. – Wei Wu Wei

The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness. – Eric Hoffer

The self divides into ten billion distinct illuminating spirits. Distinguish these without falling into names and classifications. – Hongzhi

The struggle of what one likes and what one dislikes is the disease of the mind. – Sengcan

The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus. – Bruce Lee

The temptation to give up is strongest just before victory. – Zen Proverb

The thief left it behind: the moon at my window. – Ryōkan

The things I carry are my thoughts. That’s it. They are the only weight. My thoughts determine whether I am free and light or burdened. – Kamal Ravikant

The three elements of creativity are thus: loving, knowing, and doing – or heart, mind, and hands – or, as Zen Buddhist teaching has it; great faith, great question, and great courage. – Eric Maisel

The tighter you squeeze, the less you have. – Thomas Merton

The trouble is, you think you have time. – Buddha

The true miracle is not walking on water or walking in air, but simply walking on this earth. – Thích Nhất Hạnh

The true purpose [of Zen] is to see things as they are, to observe things as they are, and to let everything go as it goes. – Shunryu Suzuki

The true purpose is to see things as they are, to observe things as they are, and to let everything go as it goes. – Shunryu Suzuki

The truth is not always beautiful, nor beautiful words the truth. – Lao Tzu

The Truth is realized in an instant; the Act is practiced step by step. – Seungsahn

The truth knocks on the door and you say, ‘Go away, I’m looking for the truth,’ and so it goes away. Puzzling. – Robert M. Pirsig

The trying to do something is in itself enlightenment. When we are in difficulty or distress, there we have enlightenment. – Shunryu Suzuki

The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. – Masanobu Fukuoka

The ultimate Truth is beyond words. Doctrines are words. They’re not the Way. – Bodhidharma

The waters are in motion, but the moon retains its serenity. – D.T. Suzuki

The way I meditate is by being organized. I can get real Zen if I go home and tidy the front room. – Anthony Joshua

The way of Zen is to become independent and strong. Don’t rely on others for perceptions of life and truth. Do it individually. – Frederick Lenz

The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method? – Confucius

The way out of life & death is not some special technique; essential thing is to penetrate to the root of life & death. – Bukko

The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in one dewdrop on the grass. – Dogen Zenji

The wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water molds itself to the pitcher. – Zen Proverb

The word ‘innocence’ means a mind that is incapable of being hurt. – Jiddu Krishnamurti

The world is its own magic. – Shunryu Suzuki

The Zen expression “Kill the Buddha!” means to kill any concept of the Buddha as something apart from oneself. – Peter Matthiessen

There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth. – Jalaluddin Rumi

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as if nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is a miracle. – Albert Einstein

There are things that I value now that I didn’t when I first went over there, like Zen Buddhism, which has become part of my life over the last couple years. – Matthew Sweet

There is a calmness to a life lived in gratitude, a quiet joy. – Ralph H. Blum

There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in. – Leonard Cohen

There is no beginning to practice nor end to enlightenment; There is no beginning to enlightenment nor end to practice. – Dogen Zenji

There is no mistake in nature. – Byron Katie

There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. – Dalai Lama

There is not secret to balance. You just have to feel the waves. – Frank Herbert

There is one thing in life that you can always rely on: life being as it is. – Joko Beck

There is only one thing in life which never changes, and it is change. – Confucius

There is only the one reality, neither to be realized nor attained. – Huang Po

There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the present moment. A man’s whole life is a succession of moment after moment. There will be nothing else to do, and nothing else to pursue. Live being true to the single purpose of the moment. – Yamamoto Tsunetomo

There’s no such thing as a friend who doesn’t have any flaws. But if you try to look for all their flaws, you will remain with no friends. – Zen Proverb

These mountains that you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb. – Najwa Zebian

They call it ‘peace of mind’ but maybe it should be called ‘peace from mind’. – Naval Ravikant

Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations. – Alan Watts

Things derive their being and nature by mutual dependence and are nothing in themselves. – Nagarjuna

Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world. – Miyamoto Musashi

Think of patience as an act of being open to whatever comes your way. – Lodro Rinzler

Think with your whole body. – Taisen Deshimar

This dew like life fades away; time speeds swiftly. In this short life of ours, avoid involvement in superfluous things and just study the Way. – Dōgen Zenji

This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play. – Alan Watts

This will never come again. – Steve Hagen

Those who are awake, live in a state of constant amazement. – Buddha

Those who are free of resentful thoughts surely find peace. – Buddha

Those who don’t know how to suffer are the worst off. There are times when the only correct thing we can do is to bear out troubles until a better day. – Ming-Dao Deng

Those who see worldly life as an obstacle to Dharma see no Dharma in everyday actions. They have not yet discovered that there are no everyday actions outside of Dharma. – Dogen Zenji

Those who seek the easy way do not seek the true way. – Dogen Zenji

Those who seek the truth by means of intellect and learning only get further and further away from it. – Huang Po

Those who worship don’t know, and those who know don’t worship. – Bodhidharma

Three things cannot long be hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. – Confucius

Through our eyes, the universe is perceiving itself. Through our ears, the universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witnesses through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence. – Alan Watts

Throughout this life, you can never be certain of living long enough to take another breath. – Huang Po

Time does not change us. It just unfolds us. – Max Frisch

Time is the coin of life. Only you can determine how it will be spent. – Carl Sandburg

Time is the fire in which we burn. – Gene Roddenberry

Time’s the king of men; he’s both their parent, and he is their grave, and gives them what he will, not what they crave. – William Shakespeare

To a mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders. – Chuang Tzu

To accept some idea of truth without experiencing it is like a painting of a cake on paper which you cannot eat. – Suzuki Roshi

To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. – Thích Nhất Hạnh

To be in harmony with the wholeness of things is not to have anxiety over imperfections. – Dogen Zenji

To be truly ignorant, be content with your own knowledge. – Zhuangzi

To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it. – Confucius

To deny the reality of things is to miss their reality; to assert the emptiness of things is to miss their reality. The more you talk and think about it, the further astray you wander from the truth. Stop talking and thinking and there is nothing you will not be able to know. – Sengcan

To escape from the world means that one’s mind is not concerned with the opinions of the world. – Dogen Zenji

To follow the path, look to the master, follow the master, walk with the master, see through the master, become the master. – Zen Proverb

To go beyond is as wrong as to fall short. – Confucius

To have some deep feeling about Buddhism is not the point; we just do what we should do, like eating supper and going to bed. This is Buddhism. – Shunryu Suzuki

To know and not do is not yet to know. – Zen Proverb

To live – is that not enough? – D.T. Suzuki

To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one’s own in the midst of abundance. – Buddha

To live is enough. – Shunryu Suzuki

To receive everything, one must open one’s hands and give. – Taisen Deshimaru

To say one is revolutionary is a little like saying one is a Zen Buddhist – if you say you are, you probably aren’t. – Lawrence Ferlinghetti

To see things for what they are is to see with the eyes of the vastness itself. – Suzanne Segal

To seek is to suffer. To seek nothing is bliss. – Bodhidharma

To set up what you like against what you dislike, this is the disease of the mind. – Sengcan

To study Buddhism is to study ourselves. To study ourselves is to forget ourselves. – Dogen Zenji

To study Buddhism is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be awakened by all things. – Dogen Zenji

To understand everything is to forgive everything. – Gautama Siddhartha

Today, you can decide to walk in freedom. You can choose to walk differently. You can walk as a free person, enjoying every step. – Thich Nhat Hanh

Too lazy to be ambitious, I let the world take care of itself. Ten days’ worth of rice in my bag; a bundle of twigs by the fireplace. Why chatter about delusion and enlightenment? Listening to the night rain on my roof, I sit comfortably, with both legs stretched out. – Ryōkan

Treat every moment as your last. It is not preparation for something else. – Shunryu Suzuki

Trees are like people. They all have a few flaws in them. – Bob Ross

True depth of understanding is wide and steady. Shallow understanding is lazy and wandering. – Zhuangzi

Truth is not far away. It is nearer than near. There is no need to attain it, since not one of your steps leads away from it. – Dogen Zenji

Truth makes you rise to new heights, no matter where you are. – Kamal Ravikant

Try to imagine what it will be like to go to sleep and never wake up… now try to imagine what it was like to wake up having never gone to sleep. – Alan Watts

Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth. – Alan Watts

Unhappiness and rain just drift by and are gone, they are visitors. – John Aske

Unhappiness enters through a door that has been left open. – Zen Proverb

Unless it grows out of yourself no knowledge is really yours, it is only borrowed plumage. – D.T. Suzuki

Unless we agree to suffer we cannot be free from suffering. – D.T. Suzuki

Unless we die to ourselves, we can never be alive again. – D.T. Suzuki

Un-think. Un-learn. Un-know. Un-believe. Un-speculate. Un-seek. Un-strive. Un-fear. Lose your mind and effortlessly be. – Brian Thompson

Upon retiring, sleep as if you had entered your last sleep. Upon awakening, leave your bed behind you instantly as if you had cast away a pair of old shoes. – Soyen Shaku

Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet. – Thich Nhat Hanh

Watch what you say, and whatever you say, practice it. – Soyen Shaku

We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness. – Thích Nhat Hanh

We are not disturbed by what happens to us, but by our thoughts about what happens to us. – Epictetus

We carry inside us the wonders we seek outside us. – Jalaluddin Rumi

We do not exist for the sake of something else. We exist for the sake of ourselves. – Shunryu Suzuki

We have only now, only this single eternal moment opening and unfolding before us, day and night. – Jack Kornfield

We have to face the pain we have been running from. In fact, we need to learn to rest in it and let its searing power transform us. – Joko Beck

We just let it happen… and that’s the beauty of this technique. – Bob Ross

We must recognize our own behavioral errors. To be blunt, you are not likely to become a cognitive Zen master anytime soon. But a little enlightenment could keep you from making some common investing errors. – Barry Ritholtz

We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want. – Lao Tzu

We should not hoard knowledge; we should be free from our knowledge. – Shunryu Suzuki

We teach ourselves; Zen merely points the way. – D.T. Suzuki

We’re in such a hurry most of the time we never get much chance to talk. The result is a kind of endless day-to-day shallowness, a monotony that leaves a person wondering years later where all the time went and sorry that it’s all gone. – Robert M. Pirsig

We’re lost where the mind can’t find us utterly lost. – Ikkyu

Well, for one thing, in the tradition of Zen that I’ve practiced, there is no prayerful worship and there is no affirmation of a deity. – Leonard Cohen

What is important is not the right doctrine but the attainment of the true experience. It is giving up believing in belief. – Alan Keightley

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

What pleases our mind is not dangerous enough. – Kazuaki Tanahashi

What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others. – Confucius

What was never lost can never be found. – Zen Proverb

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

Whatever happens always happens on time. – Zen Proverb

When an ordinary man attains knowledge, he is a sage; when a sage attains understanding, he is an ordinary man. – Zen Proverb

When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending. – Thich Nhat Hanh

When asked “Who I Am’, the only answer possible is: I am the infinite, the vastness that is the substance of all things. I am no one and everyone, nothing and everything – just as you are. – Suzanne Segal

When eating bamboo sprouts, remember the man who planted them. – Chinese proverb

When fishermen cannot go to sea, they repair nets. – Nabil Sabio Azadi

When I feel like dancing, I dance. I don’t care if anyone else is dancing or if everyone else is laughing at me. I dance. – Rachel Danson

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. – Lao Tzu

When I’m riding my bicycle I feel like a Buddhist who is happy just to enjoy his mundane existence. – Robin Williams

When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps. – Confucius

When mind exists undisturbed in the Way, nothing in the world can offend, and when a thing can no longer offend it ceases to exist in the old way. When no discriminating thoughts arise, the old mind ceases to exist. – Sengcan

When one first seeks the truth, one separates oneself from it. – Dogen Zenji

When reading, only read. When eating, only eat. When thinking, only think. – Seungsahn

When something dies is the greatest teaching. – Shunryu Suzuki

When the mind is exhausted of images, it invents its own. – Gary Snyder

When the mind is perfectly clear, what is is what we want. – Byron Katie

When the pupil is ready to learn, a teacher will appear. – Zen Proverb

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. – Zen Proverb

When there is no desire, all things are at peace. – Lao Tzu

When there is no gaining idea in what you do, then you do something. – Shunryu Suzuki

When thought is in bondage the truth is hidden, for everything is murky and unclear, and the burdensome practice of judging brings annoyance and weariness. What benefit can be derived from distinctions and separations? – Sengcan

When thoughts arise, then do all things arise. When thoughts vanish, then do all things vanish. – Huang Po

When walking, walk. When eating, eat. – Zen Proverb

When we discover that the truth is already in us, we are all at once our original selves. – Dogen Zenji

When we do not expect anything we can be ourselves. – Shunryu Suzuki

When we have our body and mind in order, everything else will exist in the right place, in the right way. – Shunryu Suzuki

When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways, either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength. Thanks to the teachings of Buddha, I have been able to take this second way. – Dalai Lama

When we realize the everlasting truth of “everything changes” and find our composure in it, we find ourselves in Nirvana. – Shunryu Suzuki

When we start to feel anxious or depressed, instead of asking, “What do I need to get to be happy?” The question becomes, “What am I doing to disturb the inner peace that I already have?”. – D.T. Suzuki

When you are present, you can allow the mind to be as it is without getting entangled in it. – Eckhart Tolle

When you bow, you should just bow; when you sit, you should just sit; when you eat, you should just eat. – Shunryu Suzuki

When you catch yourself slipping into a pool of negativity, notice how it derives from nothing other than resistance to the current situation. – Donna Quesada

When you do something, you should burn yourself up completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself. – Shunryu Suzuki

When you do something, you should do it with your whole body and mind; you should be concentrated on what you do. You should do it completely, like a good bonfire. – Shunryu Suzuki

When you get to the top of the mountain, keep climbing. – Zen Proverb

When you hear that all beings are Buddha, don’t fall into the error of thinking there’s more than one Buddha. – Zen Graffiti

When you plant a seed of love, it is you that blossoms. – Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati

When you reach the top of the mountain, keep climbing. – Zen Koan

When you reach the top, keep climbing. – Zen Proverb

When you realize nothing is lacking, the whole world belongs to you. – Lao Tzu

When you seek it, you cannot find it. – Zen Proverb

When you think everything is someone else fault, you will suffer a lot. When you realize that everything springs only from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy. – Dalai Lama

When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink; but when you try to sink, you float. – Alan Watts

When you understand one thing through and through, you understand everything. When you try to understand everything, you will not understand anything. – Shunryu Suzuki

When you’ve done the technical part, you’re then into the joy, the zen, into being. Technology no longer exists for you. You’re then into the mystery of the thing you’re doing. – William Shatner

When you’ve understood this scripture, throw it away. If you can’t understand this scripture, throw it away. I insist on your freedom. – Jack Kerouac

Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can talk with him? – Zhuangzi

Where there is great doubt, there will be great awakening; small doubt, small awakening, no doubt, no awakening. – Zen Proverb

Where you are right now is where you are. – Zen Proverb

Where you stand, where you are, that’s what your life is right there, regardless of how painful it is or how enjoyable it is. That’s what it is. – Taizan Maezumi

Wherever you are, be there totally. – Eckhart Tolle

Wherever you are, it’s the place you need to be. Maxime Lagacé

Whether we like it or not, change comes, and the greater the resistance, the greater the pain. – Alan Watts

Whether you are a genius or an idiot, a thief or, like me, a Zen priest who has cultivated the mind for years,  the mind anyway is subject to conditions. – Zoketsu Norman Fischer

Who would then deny that when I am sipping tea in my tearoom I am swallowing the whole universe with it and that this very moment of my lifting the bowl to my lips is eternity itself transcending time and space? – D.T. Suzuki

Who you are is always right. – Ming-Dao Deng

Why do you so earnestly seek the truth in distant places? Look for delusion and truth in the bottom of your own heart. – Ryōkan

Why is the tao so valuable? Because it is everywhere, and everyone can use it. This is why those who seek will find. – Lao Tzu

Why seek a doctrine? As soon as you have a doctrine, you fall into dualistic thought. – Huang Po

Wisdom is always an overmatch for strength. – Phil Jackson

Wise men don’t judge – they seek to understand. – Wei Wu Wei

With no set idea of how something is supposed to be, it is hard to get stuck on things not happening in the time frame you desired. Instead, you are just being there, open to the possibilities of your life. – Lodro Rinzler

Within our impure mind the pure one is to be found. – Huineng

Words diminish meanings; these words included. – Zen Proverb

Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others. – Buddha

Working out is my biggest hobby. It’s my Zen hour. I just zone out. – Zac Efron

Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose. – Lyndon B. Johnson

You are a function of what the whole universe is doing in the same way that a wave is a function of what the whole ocean is doing. – Alan Watts

You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself. – Alan Watts

You are exactly where you need to be. – Zen Proverb

You are here to learn something. Don’t try to figure out what it is. This can be frustrating and unproductive. – Steven L. Peck

You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather. – Pema Chödrön

You are, after all, what you think. Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions. – Elizabeth Gilbert

You can have the mind or you can have the moment. – Naval Ravikant

You cannot travel the path until you have become the path itself. – Buddha

You have to learn how to sit without fighting. If you know how to sit like that, sitting is very pleasant. – Thich Nhat Hanh

You look at where you’re going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge. – Robert M. Pirsig

You must let what happens happen. Everything must be equal in your eyes, good and evil, beautiful and ugly, foolish and wise. – Michael Ende

You must only concentrate on the next step, the next breath, the next stroke of the broom, and the next, and the next. Nothing else. – Michael Ende

You know the sound of two hands clapping; tell me, what is the sound of one hand? – Hakuin Ekaku

You prep, you prep, you prep. And on the day that you film, you let all of that go. I try to achieve emptiness as much as possible, ‘the Zen thing’, to let the deal come out of that nothing. – Jeff Bridges

You should not be a smoky fire. You should burn yourself completely. If you do not burn yourself completely, a trace of yourself will be left in what you do. – Shunryu Suzuki

You should rather be grateful for the weeds you have in your mind, because eventually they will enrich your practice. – Shunryu Suzuki

You should rather be grateful for the weeds, because eventually they will enrich your practice. – Shunryu Suzuki

You should sit and meditate for 20 minutes, unless you’re too busy, then you should sit and meditate or an hour. – Zen Proverb

You should study not only that you become a mother when your child is born, but also that you become a child. – Dogen Zenji

You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger. – Buddha

You’re never given more pain than you can handle. You never, ever get more than you can take. – Byron Katie

Your body and mind are the field. Suffering is the seed, wisdom the sprout, and buddhahood the grain. – Bodhidharma

Your home is where your thoughts find peace. – Zen Proverb

Your life is your practice. Your spiritual practice does not occur someplace other than in your life right now, and your life is nowhere other than where you are. – Karen Maezen Miller

Your mind is a mad monkey trying to understand life which is unfair and crazy. Get used to it. Maxime Lagacé

Your mind wants control. Life wants change. Maxime Lagacé

Your problems never cease. They just change. – Phil Jackson

Your treasure house is in yourself, it contains all you need. – Hui Hai

Your whole world happens in your mind. Make sure you give it ample amount of love and care. Are you? Maxime Lagacé

You’re never given more pain than you can handle. You never, ever get more than you can take. – Byron Katie

Zazen is an activity that is an extension of the universe. Zazen is not the life of an individual, it’s the universe that’s breathing. – Dogen Zenji

  • Coming empty-handed, going empty-handed, that is human.
    When you are born, where do you come from?
    When you die, where do you go?
    Life is like a floating cloud which appears.
    Death is like a floating cloud which disappears.
    The floating cloud itself originally does not exist.
    Life and death, coming and going, are also like that.
    But there is one thing which always remains clear.
    It is pure and clear, not depending on life and death.
    Then what is the one pure and clear thing?

    • “The Human Route”, in The Whole World is a Single Flower (1992) by Seung Sahn, p. 33

Zen Proverbs

Zen stories

The Gates of Paradise

  • A soldier named Nobushige came to Hakuin, and asked: “Is there really a paradise and a hell?”
    “Who are you?” inquired Hakuin.
    “I am a samurai,” the warrior replied.
    “You, a soldier!” exclaimed Hakuin. “What kind of ruler would have you as his guard? Your face looks like that of a beggar.”
    Nobushige became so angry that he began to draw his sword, but Hakuin continued: “So you have a sword! Your weapon is probably much too dull to cut off my head.”
    As Nobushige drew his sword Hakuin remarked: “Here open the gates of hell!”
    At these words the samurai, perceiving the master’s discipline, sheathed his sword and bowed.
    “Here open the gates of paradise,” said Hakuin.

    • 57. The Gates of Paradise

A Drop of Water

  • A Zen master named Gisan asked a young student to bring him a pail of water to cool his bath.
    The student brought the water and, after cooling the bath, threw on to the ground the little that was left over.
    “You dunce!” the master scolded him. “Why didn’t you give the rest of the water to the plants? What right have you to waste even a drop of water in this temple?
    The young student attained Zen in that instant. He changed his name to Tekisui, which means a drop of water.

    • 96. A Drop of Water

Layman Pang

  • The Layman was sitting in his thatched cottage one day studying the sūtras. “Difficult, difficult,” he said; “like trying to scatter ten measures of sesame seed all over a tree.” “Easy, easy,” Mrs. Pang said; “like touching your feet to the ground when you get out of bed.” “Neither difficult nor easy,” Ling Zhao said; “on the hundred grass tips, the great Masters’ meaning.”
    • The recorded sayings of Layman P’ang: a ninth-century Zen classic (1971), p. 74

The Black-Nosed Buddha

A nun who was searching for enlightenment made a statue of Buddha and covered it with a gold leaf. Wherever she went she carried this golden Buddha with her.

Years passed and, still carrying her Buddha, the nun came to live in a small temple in a country where there were many Buddhas, each one with its own particular shrine.

The nun wished to burn incense before her golden Buddha. Not liking the idea of the perfume straying to the others, she devised a funnel through which the smoke would ascend only to her statue. This blackened the nose of the golden Buddha, making it especially ugly.

Accurate Proportion

Sen no Rikyu, a tea-master, wished to hang a flower basket on a column. He asked a carpenter to help him, directing the man to place it a little higher or lower, to the right or left, until he had found exactly the right spot. “That’s the place,” he said, finally.

The carpenter, to test the master, marked the spot and then pretended he had forgotten. Was this the place? “Was this the place, perhaps?” The carpenter kept asking, pointing to various places on the column.

But so accurate was the tea-master’s sense of proportion that it was not until the carpenter reached the identical spot again that its location was approved.

The Most Valuable Thing in the World

Sozan, a Chinese Zen master, was asked by a student: “What is the most valuable thing in the world?”

The master replied: “The head of a dead cat.”

“Why is the head of a dead cat the most valuable thing in the world?” inquired the student.

Sozan replied: “Because no one can name its price.”

No Work, No Food

Hyakujo, the Chinese Zen Master, used to labor with his pupils even at the age of eighty, trimming the gardens, cleaning the grounds, and pruning the trees.

The pupils felt sorry to see the old teacher working so hard, but they knew he would not listen to their advice to stop, so they hid away his tools.

That day the master did not eat. The next day he did not eat, nor the next. “He may be angry because we have hidden his tools,” the pupils surmised. “We had better put them back.”

The day they did, the teacher worked and ate the same as before. In the evening he instructed them: “No work, no food.”


Tanzan wrote sixty postal cards on the last day of his life, and asked an attendant to mail them. Then he passed away.

The cards read:

I am departing from this world.

This is my last announcement.

July 27, 1892

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