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Collections of Quotes about Zen


Zen is all about wisdom and the attainment of enlightenment. Discover famous Zen quotes from famous Zen Masters from the philosophies of Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism and from such great teachers such as Lao Tzu, Buddha, Hsi-Tang , Nan-sen, Ray Bradbury and the rest.


“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.”
― Ryokan
“Not thinking about anything is Zen. Once you know this, walking, sitting, or lying down, everything you do is Zen.”
― Bodhidharma, The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma
“Because even among contrarians, I’m a contrarian. But all of this is just words of bronze, third place rhetoric. What do I really mean when I say we want to shock society into awareness? Do we mean we want more originality and individuality? Less TV, more reading, writing, actual thinking? Less sheep, more shepherd pie? Yes, yes, and a little more pie, please. Oh, and some more sweet tea, too”
― Jarod Kintz, I Should Have Renamed This
“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.”
― Rumi
“The more you know, the less you need.”
― Yvon Chouinard, Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman
“Life is more or less a lie, but then again, that's exactly the way we want it to be.”
― Bob Dylan
“The baby looks at things all day without winking; that is because his eyes are not focused on any particular object. He goes without knowing where he is going, and stops without knowing what he is doing. He merges himself within the surroundings and moves along with it. These are the principles of mental hygiene.”
― Zhuangzi
“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
“Who we are now is all that really matters.”
― Amy Joy, The Academie
“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. You are looking for answers, insight, and wisdom that you already possess. Live the life in front of you, be the life you are, and see what you find out for yourself.”
― Karen Maezen Miller, Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood
“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, The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma
“Pardon all runners,
All speechless, alien winds,
All mad waters.

Pardon their impulses,
Their wild attitudes,
Their young flights, their reticence.

When a message has no clothes on
How can it be spoken.”
― Thomas Merton
“The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?”
― Confucius
“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?”

“What we can change is our perceptions, which have the effect of changing everything.”
― Donna Quesada, Buddha in the Classroom: Zen Wisdom to Inspire Teachers
“He knows not where he's going,
For the ocean will decide,
Its not the destination,
It's the glory of the ride”
― Edward Monkton, Zen Dog
“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
“There had to be something wrong with my life. I should have been born a Yugoslavian shepherd who looked up at the Big Dipper every night.”
― Haruki Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
“The object of your desire is not an object.”
― Jack Gardner, Words Are Not Things
“What makes human life--which is inseparable from this moment--so precious is its fleeting nature. And not that it doesn't last but that it never returns again.”
― Steve Hagen, Buddhism Is Not What You Think: Finding Freedom Beyond Beliefs
“Only the hand that erases can write the true thing.”
― Meister Eckhart
“Real haiku is the soul of poetry. Anything that is not actually present in one's heart is not haiku. The moon glows, flowers bloom, insects cry, water flows. There is no place we cannot find flowers or think of the moon. This is the essence of haiku. Go beyond the restrictions of your era, forget about purpose or meaning, separate yourself from historical limitations—there you will find the essence of true art, religion, and science.”
― Santoka Taneda, Mountain Tasting: Haiku and Journals of Santoka Taneda
“A falcon hovers at the edge of the sky.
Two gulls drift slowly up the river.

Vulnerable while they ride the wind,
they coast and glide with ease.

Dew is heavy on the grass below,
the spider's web is ready.

Heaven's ways include the human:
among a thousand sorrows, I stand alone.”
― Du Fu
“A boddhisattva is someone who is on the way to becoming a buddha. All of us become boddhisattvas as soon as we start to take our Zen work seriously and the work we do contributes to creating a world in which all good actions become more efficacious.”
― David Brazier
“don't wait for the man standing in the
snow
to cut off his arm help him now”
― Ikkyu, Crow with No Mouth
“In fact, the truth of Zen is the truth of life, and life means to live, to move, to act; not merely to reflect.”
― D.T. Suzuki
“The dizziness in the face of les espaces infinis--only overcome if we dare to gaze into them without any protection. And accept them as the reality before which we must justify our existence. For this is the truth we must reach to live, that everything is and we just in it.”
― Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings
“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, The Zen Teaching of Huang Po: On the Transmission of Mind
“Humility is just as much the opposite of self-abasement as it is of self-exaltation. To be humble is not to make comparisons. Secure in its reality, the self is neither better nor worse, bigger nor smaller, than anything else in the universe. It *is*--is nothing, yet at the same time one with everything. It is in this sense that humility is absolute self-effacement.

To be nothing in the self-effacement of humility, yet, for the sake of the task, to embody its whole weight and importance in your earing, as the one who has been called to undertake it. To give to people, works, poetry, art, what the self can contribute, and to take, simply and freely, what belongs to it by reason of its identity. Praise and blame, the winds of success and adversity, blow over such a life without leaving a trace or upsetting its balance.”
― Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings
“Consider this:

1. Would you ride in a car whose driver was on the consciousness-expanding "entheogenic" drug LSD?

And here's a bonus question:

2. Why does an "expanded consciousness" include the inability to operate a motor vehicle?”
― Brad Warner, Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth About Reality
“When you paint Spring, do not paint willows, plums, peaches, or apricots, but just paint Spring. To paint willows, plums, peaches, or apricots is to paint willows, plums, peaches, or apricots - it is not yet painting Spring.”
― Dōgen
“You don't think your way back to joy; you open to it.”
― Donna Quesada, Buddha in the Classroom: Zen Wisdom to Inspire Teachers
“Humility before the flower at the timber line is the gate which gives access to the path up the open fell.”
― Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings
“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, Buddha in the Classroom: Zen
“The effects you will have on your students are infinite and currently unknown; you will possibly shape the way they proceed in their careers, the way they will vote, the way they will behave as partners and spouses, the way they will raise their kids.”
― Donna Quesada, Buddha in the Classroom: Zen
“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 Wilson Watts
“But when you're in front of an audience and you make them laugh at a new idea, you're guiding the whole being for the moment. No one is ever more him/herself than when they really laugh. Their defenses are down. It's very Zen-like, that moment. They are completely open, completely themselves when that message hits the brain and the laugh begins. That's when new ideas can be implanted. If a new idea slips in at that moment, it has a chance to grow.”
― George Carlin, Last Words
“When you blame, you open up a world of excuses, because as long as you're looking outside, you miss the opportunity to look inside, and you continue to suffer.”
― Donna Quesada, Buddha in the Classroom: Zen Wisdom to Inspire Teachers
“The world is filled with love-play, from animal lust to sublime compassion.”
― Alan Wilson Watts
“I'm simply saying that there is a way to be sane. I'm saying that you can
get rid of all this insanity created by the past in you. Just by being a simple
witness of your thought processes.

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. The moment you say “this is good, this
is bad,” you have already jumped onto the thought process.

It takes a little time to create a gap between the witness and the mind. Once
the gap is there, you are in for a great suprise, that you are not the mind, that
you are the witness, A watcher.

And this process of watching is the very alchemy of real religion. Because as
you become more and more deeply rooted in witnessing, thoughts start
disappearing. You are, but the mind is utterly empty.

That’s the moment of enlightenment. That is the moment that you become for
the first time an unconditioned, sane, really free human being.”
― Osho
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few”
― Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind
“We are searching for the core of our lives; our culture intuits that writing, that ancient activity, might be the pathway...Awakening does not feed ego's needs and desires; it pulverizes the self. Our society couldn't knowingly bear such reduction, so we've tricked ourselves into the same path but call it writing.”
― Natalie Goldberg
“It is easy to believe we are each waves and forget we are also the ocean.”
― Jon J. Muth
“Like wind-- In it, with it, of it. Of it just like a sail, so light and strong that, even when it is bent flat, it gathers all the power of the wind without hampering its course.

Like light-- In light, lit through by light, transformed into light. Like the lens which disappears in the light it focuses.

Like wind. Like light.

Just this--on these expanses, on these heights.”
― Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings
“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, The Scripture of the Golden Eternity
“Just as parents care for their children, you should bear in mind the whole universe.”
― Zen Master Dogen
“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, Hsin Hsin Ming
“What is the purpose of writing music? One is, of course, not dealing with purposes but dealing with sounds. Or the answer must take the form of a paradox: a purposeful purposeless or a purposeless play. This play, however, is an affirmation of life--not an attempt to bring order out of chaos nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply a way of waking up to the very life we’re living, which is so excellent once one gets one’s mind and one’s desires out of its way and lets it act of its own accord.”
― John Cage, Silence: Lectures and Writings
“we're lost where the mind can't find us
utterly lost”
― Ikkyu, Crow with No Mouth
“Do not seek for the truth, only stop having an opinion.”
― SENG-TS'AN
“Some may slander, some may abuse;
They try to set fire to the heavens with a torch
And end by merely tiring themselves out.
I hear their scandal as though it were ambrosial truth;
Immediately everything melts
And I enter the place beyond thought and words.”
― Yoka Genkaku
“This will never come again”
― Steve Hagen
“A pity it is evening, yet
I do love the water of this spring
seeing how clear it is, how clean;
rays of sunset gleam on it,
lighting up its ripples, making it
one with those who travel
the roads; I turn and face
the moon; sing it a song, then
listen to the sound of the wind
amongst the pines.”
― Li Po
“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, The Bijak of Kabir
“it isn't that we're alone or not alone
whose voice do you want mine? yours?”
― Ikkyu, Crow with No Mouth
“Earth, mountains, rivers, hidden in this nothingness.
In this nothingness, earth, mountains, rivers revealed.
Spring flowers, winter snows.
There's no being or non-being, nor denial itself.”
― Saisho Hiroshi
“For the unified mind in accord with the Way all self-centered striving ceases. Doubts and irresolutions vanish and life in true faith is possible. With a single stroke we are freed from bondage; nothing clings to us and we hold nothing. All is empty, clear, self-illuminating, with no exertion of the mind's power.”
― Sengcan, Hsin Hsin Ming
“Courage is often associated with aggression, but instead should be seen as a willingness to act from the heart.”
― Donna Quesada, Buddha in the Classroom: Zen Wisdom to Inspire Teachers
“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, Hsin Hsin Ming
“I'd love to give you something
but what would help?”
― Ikkyu, Crow with No Mouth
“Hearing a crow with no mouth
Cry in the deep
Darkness of the night,
I feel a longing for
My father before he was born.”
― Ikkyu, Crow with No Mouth
“Whatever the world dishes up, we take it on--not on our own terms, but on the world's.”
― Steve Hagen
“...it's like this. Sometimes, when you've a very long street ahead of you, you think how terribly long it is and feel sure you'll never get it swept. And then you start to hurry. You work faster and faster and every time you look up there seems to be just as much left to sweep as before, and you try even harder, and you panic, and in the end you're out of breath and have to stop--and still the street stretches away in front of you. That's not the way to do it.

You must never think of the whole street at once, understand? 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.

That way you enjoy your work, which is important, because then you make a good job of it. And that's how it ought to be.

And all at once, before you know it, you find you've swept the whole street clean, bit by bit. what's more, you aren't out of breath. That's important, too... (28-29)”
― Michael Ende, Momo
“As we live out of such a mind, we become generous, with no sense of tolerance. We become patient, with no sense of putting up with anything. We become compassionate, with no sense of separation. And we become wise, with no sense of having to straighten anyone out.”
― Steve Hagen
“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, The Knitting Sutra: Craft as a Spiritual Practice
“Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun.”
― Alan Wilson Watts
“The thinking brain influences the body’s responses and it makes a neat little loop.”
― Brad Warner
Tanzan and Ekido were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling.

Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unble to cross the intersection.

"Come on, girl," said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.

Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he could no longer restrain himself. "We monks don't go near females," he told Tanzan, "especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?"

"I left the girl there," said Tanzan. "Are you still carrying her?”
― Nyogen Senzaki, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings
“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, Tao of Jeet Kune Do
“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, Hsin Hsin Ming
“It's like you took a bottle of ink and you threw it at a wall. Smash! And all that ink spread. And in the middle, it's dense, isn't it? And as it gets out on the edge, the little droplets get finer and finer and make more complicated patterns, see? So in the same way, there was a big bang at the beginning of things and it spread. And you and I, sitting here in this room, as complicated human beings, are way, way out on the fringe of that bang. We are the complicated little patterns on the end of it. Very interesting. But so we define ourselves as being only that. If you think that you are only inside your skin, you define yourself as one very complicated little curlique, way out on the edge of that explosion. Way out in space, and way out in time. Billions of years ago, you were a big bang, but now you're a complicated human being. And then we cut ourselves off, and don't feel that we're still the big bang. But you are. Depends how you define yourself. You are actually--if this is the way things started, if there was a big bang in the beginning-- you're not something that's a result of the big bang. You're not something that is a sort of puppet on the end of the process. You are still the process. You are the big bang, the original force of the universe, coming on as whoever you are. When I meet you, I see not just what you define yourself as--Mr so-and- so, Ms so-and-so, Mrs so-and-so--I see every one of you as the primordial energy of the universe coming on at me in this particular way. I know I'm that, too. But we've learned to define ourselves as separate from it. ”
― Alan Wilson Watts

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