Sunday, October 5, 2014

Beginner's Mind

In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind, there are few.

This is one of my favourite quotes. When I first chanced upon it, I liked it even without knowing what it actually means. I just liked the sound and rhythm of it. It sounded like poetry.

Recently, I came across the actual source of the quote. It came from Shunryu Suzuki’s book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. It is a book that teaches people about meditation.

Suzuki explained in the book that in Japan, they have the phrase shoshin, which means beginner’s mind. I will quote the entire paragraph in the book, as I think it explained the concept quite well.

“The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner’s mind. Suppose you recite the Prajna Pramita Sutra only once. It might be a very good recitation. But what would happen to you if you recited it twice, three times, four times, or more? You might easily lose your original attitude towards it. The same thing will happen in your other Zen practices. For a while you will keep your beginner’s mind, but if you continue to practice one, two, three years or more, although you may improve some, you are liable to lose the limitless meaning of original mind.”

Suzuki explained that for Zen students, the most important thing is to keep this “original mind”. It means that we should have an empty mind and a ready mind. If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything. “When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true beginners. Then we can really learn something.”

Wow. So that is what these two sentences meant. I have a new-found respect for this quote after reading Suzuki’s book.

In our day to day life, we do many things over and over again. For example, we go to work every day. The first day of our work, we go to office with trepidation and excitement, eager to learn. Every day is an exciting day, because everything is new. Over the years, we become more jaded. How do we keep our beginner’s mind, such that every day becomes a new day?

Attitude is key. Imagination as well.

Imagine that you are a rookie. This is the first day of your working life. Take in the experience of what happened in the office with an open mind. Observe, really observe. Then you will find that what you experience every day in the office becomes totally different.

I wish you luck in your experiment. Excuse me while I go practice my “beginner’s mind”. Ommm…

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