Quotes for
the Journey:


Zen is not some kind of
excitement but concentration
on our usual everyday routine.

Shunryu Suzuki

When Banzan was walking through a market he overheard a conversation between a butcher and his customer.
"Give me the best piece of meat you have," said the customer.
"Everything in my shop is the best," replied the butcher. "You cannot
find here any piece of meat that is not the best."
At these words Banzan became enlightened.
Two monks were washing their bowls in the river when they noticed a scorpion that was drowning.  One monk immediately scooped it up and set it upon the bank.  In the process he was stung.  He went back to washing his bowl and again the scorpion fell in.  The monk saved the scorpion and was again stung.  The other monk asked him, "Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you know its nature is to sting?"
   "Because," the monk replied, "to save it is my nature."

The fish trap exists because of the fish.  Once you've gotten the fish you can forget the trap.  The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit.  Once you've gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare.  Words exist because of their meaning.  Once you've got the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find someone who has forgotten words so I can talk with him or her?

If you try to aim for it, you are turning away from it.


No snowflake ever falls in the wrong place.

Two monks were once traveling together down a muddy road.  A heavy rain was falling.  Coming around the bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection.
     "Come on, girl," said the first monk.  Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.
      The second monk did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple.  Then he no longer could restrain himself.  "We monks don't go near females," he said.  "It is dangerous.  Why did you do that?"
      "I left the girl there," the first monk said.  "Are you still carrying her?"

Te-shan was sitting outside doing zazen.  Lung-t'an asked him why he didn't go back home.  Te-shan answered, "Because it is dark."  Lung-t'an then lit a candle and handed it to him.  As Te-shan was about to take it, Lung-t'an blew it out.  Te-shan had a sudden realization, and bowed.

One day Chuang-tzu and a friend were walking along a riverbank.
     "How delightfully the fishes are enjoying themselves in the water!" Chuang-tzu exclaimed.
     "You are not a fish," his friend said.  "How do you know whether or not the fishes are enjoying themselves?"
     "You are not me," Chuang-tzu said.  "How do you know that I do not know that the fishes are enjoying themselves?"


Talking about Zen all the time is like looking for fish tracks in a dry riverbed.     -Wu-Tzu

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

Learning Zen is a phenomenon of gold and dung.  Before you understand it, it's like gold; after you understand it, it's like dung.     -Zen master

From the pine tree, learn of the pine tree, and from the bamboo, learn of the bamboo.

After winning several archery contests, the young and rather boastful champion challenged a Zen master who was renowned for his skill as an archer.  The young man demonstrated remarkable technical proficiency when he hit a distant bull's eye on his first try, and then split that arrow with his second shot.  "There," he said to the old man, "see if you can match that!"
     Undisturbed, the master did not draw his bow, but rather motioned for the young archer to follow him up the mountain.  Curious about the old fellow's intentions, the champion followed him high into the mountain until they reached a deep chasm spanned by a rather flimsy and shaky log.  Calmly stepping out onto the middle of the unsteady and certainly perilous bridge, the old master picked a far away tree as a target, drew his bow, and fired a clean, direct hit.
     "Now it is your turn," he said as he gracefully stepped back onto the safe ground.  Staring with terror into the seemingly bottomless and beckoning abyss, the young man could not force himself to step out onto the log, no less shoot at a target.  "You have much skill with your bow," the master said, sensing his challenger's predicament, "but you have little skill with the mind that lets loose the shot."

Before enlightenment, I chopped wood and carried water.
After enlightenment, I chopped wood and carried water.
Consider the trees which allow the birds to perch and fly away without either inviting them to stay or desiring them never to depart.  If your heart can be like this, you will be near to the way.
Hogen, a Chinese Zen teacher, lived alone in a small temple in the country.  One day four traveling monks appeared and asked if they might make a fire in his yard to warm themselves.
     While they were building the fire, Hogen heard them arguing about subjectivity and objectivity.  He joined them and said:  "There is a big stone.  Do you consider it to be inside or outside your mind?"
     One of the monks replied: "From the Buddhist viewpoint everything is an objectification of mind, so I would say that the stone is inside my mind."
     "Your head must feel very heavy," observed Hogen, "if you are carrying around a stone like that in your mind."


You must have been warned against letting the golden hours slip by; but some of them are golden only because we let them slip by.     -James M. Barrie


Yamaoka Tesshu, as a young student of Zen, visited one master after another. He called upon Dokuon of Shokoku.
     Desiring to show his attainment, he said: "The mind, Buddha, and sentient beings, after all, do not exist. The true nature of phenomena is emptiness. There is no realization, no delusion, no sage, no mediocrity. There is no giving and nothing to be received."
     Dokuon, who was smoking quietly, said nothing. Suddenly he whacked Yamaoka with his bamboo pipe. This made the youth quite angry.
     "If nothing exists," inquired Dokuon, "where did this anger come from?"


No seed ever sees the flower.
If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything.  In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few.     -Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi

In a small hut, Hakuin lived a quiet life devoted to monastic purity.  When the young unmarried daughter of the village grocer became pregnant, she named Hakuin as the father.  Her outraged parents went to Hakuin and charged him with the deed.  Hakuin simply said, "Is that so?"
     When the child was born, once again the parents came to Hakuin.  They handed him the baby and demanded he take responsibility for raising it.  Hakuin said, "Is that so?" and took the baby in his arms.  Dutifully he began to look after the infant.
     A year later, the young woman could bear it no longer.  She confessed that the real father was a young man who worked in the nearby fishmarket.  The parents went to Hakuin once more, this time making deep apologies, and asked him to return the child.  Hakuin said only, "Is that so?" and gave the baby back to them.

traditional Zen Buddhist story

The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear.
Sitting peacefully doing nothing
Spring comes
and the grass grows all by itself.
Water which is too pure has no fish.     -Ts’ai Ken T’an

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

The story is told of one of the great patriarchs of the Zen tradition.
The tradition was that the begging bowl and robe are passed as the symbol of the passing of the heritage from one abbot to another. This particular abbot did not have anybody in his lineage that he thought was worthy of inheriting his bowl and his mantle. So he decided upon a test. He announced that whoever could come up with the most appropriate couplet would be the inheritor of the bowl. On the wall next to the dining hall poems began to appear. One of the poems went like this:

The Dharma wipes the dust from the mirror.
The mind reflects Buddha nature.

Another one said:

Meditation cleanses the mirror
That the mind may see the teaching.

Another wrote up there—and this was a little closer:

If the mind is dusty, it matters not
How clear the mirror.

Finally, the cook, who had never sat in meditation, who had never visited the Master, wrote his own couplet on the wall, in response to those earlier poems.  The couplet went like this:

No Mind. No Mirror.
Where does all this talk of dirt come from?

He got the mantle and the bowl.

-related by Mike Young

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To Zen, time and eternity are one.     -D.T. Suzuki
Drinking tea, eating rice,
I pass my time as it comes,
Looking down at the stream,
Looking up at the mountain,
How serene and relaxed I feel indeed!

Pao-tzu Wen-ch'I
The man to whom Tao
Acts without impediment
Does not bother with his own interests
And does not despise
Others who do.
He does not struggle to make money
And does not make a virtue of poverty.
He goes his way
Without relying on others
And does not pride himself
On walking alone.
While he does not follow the crowd
He won't complain of those who do.
Rank and reward
Make no appeal to him;
Disgrace and shame
Do not deter him.
He is not always looking
For right and wrong
Always deciding "Yes" or "No."

Thomas Merton
Put down your opinion, your condition, your situation, then you will not be stuck.  Always stay open.  Working in a gas station will be no problem, or cleaning someone's house.  If you are holding your idea, "I want a high-class job, or a house, or a car," then you will have a problem.  Zen means put everything down.  Then you can control any situation or condition.     -Seung Sahn
After ecstasy, the laundry.
A carpenter and his apprentice were walking together through a large forest.  And when they came across a tall, huge, gnarled, old, beautiful oak tree, the carpenter asked his apprentice:  "Do you know why this tree is so tall, so huge, so gnarled, so old and beautiful?"  The apprentice looked at his master and said:  "No. . . why?"  "Well," the carpenter said, "because it is useless.  If it had been useful it would have been cut long ago and made into tables and chairs, but because it is useless it could grow so tall and so beautiful that you can sit in its shade and relax."     -Tao Story
The masters in the art of living make little distinction between their work and their play, their labor and their leisure, their minds and their bodies, their education and their recreation, their love and their religion.  They hardly know which is which.  They simply pursue their vision of excellence in whatever they do, leaving others to decide whether they are working or playing.  To them they are always doing both.     -Zen Buddhist text
When you are deluded and full of doubt, even a thousand books of scripture are not enough.  When you have realized understanding, even one word is too much.     -Fen-Yang

When an ordinary person attains knowledge, that person is a sage; when a sage attains understanding, that person is an ordinary person.

Everything is based on mind, is led by mind, is fashioned by mind.  If you speak and act with a polluted mind, suffering will follow you, as the wheels of the oxcart follow the footsteps of the ox.  Everything is based on mind, is led by mind, is fashioned by mind.  If you speak and act with a pure mind, happiness will follow you, as a shadow clings to a form.     -the Buddha



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