Key Zen Practice and Teachings for Peace of Mind

Zen Practices

Peace of Mind in Zen

Zen practice speaks a great deal on composure and having a calm, peaceful mind, but understanding deeply what they mean by this is not always easy.  Below I have shared with you excerpts from Zen Master Suzuki on what Zen is indicating when it is speaks of a calm, vast, quiet mind.  The teachings below will also be very valuable in helping you establish a sound meditation practice and spiritual way of life.

Finally, after the teaching below, I highlight some of the most important ideas from this talk and also, do some interesting comparisons between what is being said here by the Zen teachings and how that is similar to what is said by Sage Patanjali and Advaita Vedanta Masters as well.  The terminology may differ but Truth is always the Truth.  

Zen Practice and Teachings Master Shunryu Suzuki:

Book:        Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Chapter:   Beyond Consciousness

We should establish our practice where there is no practice or enlightenment.  As long as we practice zazen in the area where there is practice and enlightenment, these is no chance to make perfect peace for ourselves.  In other words, we must firmly believe in our true nature.  Our true nature is beyond our conscious experience.  It is only in our conscious experience that we find practice and enlightenment or good and bad.  But whether or not we have experience of our true nature, what exists there, beyond consciousness, actually exists, and it is there that we have to establish the foundation of our practice.

[…]

When you have something in your consciousness you do not have perfect composure.  The best way towards perfect composure is to forget everything.  Then your mind is calm, and it is wide and clear enough to see and feel things as they are without any effort.  The best way to find perfect composure is not to retain any idea of things, whatever they may be – to forget all about them and not to leave any trace or shadow of thinking.  But if you try to stop your mind or try to go beyond your conscious activity, that will only be another burden for you.  "I have to stop my mind in my practice, but I cannot.  My practice is not so good."  This kind of idea is also the wrong way of practice.  Do not try to stop your mind, but leave everything as it is.  Then things will not stay in your mind so long.  Things will come as they come and go as they go.  Then eventually your clear, empty mind will last fairly long.

So to have a firm conviction in the original emptiness of your mind is the most important thing in your practice.  […].

But it is when you sit in zazen that you will have the most pure, genuine experience of the empty state of mind.  Actually, emptiness of mind is not even a state of mind, but the original essence of mind which Buddha and the Sixth Patriarch experienced.  "Essence of mind," "original mind," "original face," "Buddha nature," "emptiness" – all these words mean absolute calmness of our mind.

You know how to rest physically.  You do not know how to rest mentally.  Even though you lie in your bed your mind is still busy; even if you sleep your mind is busy dreaming.  Your mind is always in intense activity.  This is not so good.  We should know how to give up our thinking mind, our busy mind.  In order to go beyond the thinking faculty, it is necessary to have a firm conviction in the emptiness of your mind.  Believing firmly in the perfect rest of our mind, we should resume our pure original state.

Zen Practice and Teachings on Peace of Mind:

1. Key Belief in Zen Practice:

It is really quite rare for any Zen teachings to suggest a "belief" of any kind.  Those who are familiar with Zen teachings and practices, understand that the primary focus of Zen is not mental, but more directed to moment to moment awareness.  But, here Master Suzuki suggests that a key to successful Zen practice is to firmly believe in your True Original Nature, which exists beyond the conscious mind.  This belief then lays the foundation for a successful practice and is the key to having peace of mind.  Establishing yourself here, means to not be disturbed what what is taking place in the ordinary mind.

Here is how Suzuki summarizes this important key concept:

"To realize pure mind in your delusion is practice.  If you try to expel the delusion it will only persist the more.  Just say, ‘Oh, this is just delusion,’ and do not be bothered by it."

2. Zen Teaching and Advaita Teaching:

For those familiar with Advaita Vedanta masters, this is pretty much exactly how they suggest you discover your True Self.  Which can just be added to the list of descriptions Suzuki gave for the "Big Mind".  Buddha Nature, Higher Self, Big Mind, Big I, Self, I AM are all pointing at the same thing. 

Here is an article discussing Advaita Master giving very similar advice on how to approach Enlightened living and spiritual practice:

Transcendence Techniques from the Spiritual Science of Advaita Vedanta

3. Zen Teaching and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras:

Zen practice above is emphasizing absolute calmness of the mind and putting the thinking faculty to rest.  This is what Patanjali is saying when he says the purpose of Yoga is the still the waves in the mind. 

When it comes to doing this I want to emphasize, just as Master Suzuki has above, that fighting and judging are counterproductive.  The key is remaining just as a witnessing consciousness and allowing thoughts and feelings to rise and fall.  Observing them with a detached view and then letting them go without getting drawn into the drama.

Of course saying this is simpler than doing it, but that is the essence of all spiritual practice.  Letting the dualistic mind, focused on the ego, wither away under the light of awareness, so that your True Nature, upon which this drama is playing out, becomes visible and is actualized.

The best way to do this, meditation.

Specifically for Zazen or Zen Meditation Technique you will find details here:

Zen Meditation Technique

For more information on non-dualistic thinking and similarities between Zen Buddhism, Hinduism and Advaita Vedanta, you can read the following article:

Understanding Hinduism, Buddhism, Non-Dualism, Enlightenment and Life

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