The word “Zen” has become familiar shorthand for relaxation or living in the moment — a way of describing letting go of control and “going with the flow.” But its Buddhist roots can be traced all the way back to around the fifth or sixth century CE, when Zen emerged as the spiritual pursuit of enlightenment through meditation and focusing on the inner self.
Over countless generations, Zen teachers, philosophers, and poets have sought to unravel the profound meaning of Zen. They’ve guided individuals to explore their own inner realms and discover their inherent strength along the way.
This collection of quotes — from Zen masters dating back to the 13th century, as well as modern musings from notable North American figures — sheds light on Zen’s enigmatic essence while helping convey its true tranquil and peaceful nature.
Follow the stream, have faith in its course.Sheng Yen
If it rains, let it rain, if the wind blows, let it blow.Ikkyū
Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine.Shunryu Suzuki
Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the whole earth revolves — slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment. Only this actual moment is life.Thích Nhất Hạnh
Ordinary mind is itself the way.Mazu Daoyi
But do not ask me where I am going, / As I travel in this limitless world, / Where every step I take is my home.Dōgen Zenji
Let me give you a wonderful Zen practice. Wake up in the morning … look in the mirror, and laugh at yourself.Bernie Glassman
Silence is more appropriate to Zen than speech.Roshi Philip Kapleau
We should not attach to some fancy ideas or to some beautiful things. We should not seek for something good. The truth is always near at hand, within your reach.Shunryu Suzuki
Breathing in, I calm my body. / Breathing out, I smile. / Dwelling in the present moment, / I know this is a wonderful moment.Thích Nhất Hạnh
Breath Sweeps Mind.Jakusho Kwong
Although its light is wide and great … the moon is reflected even in a puddle one inch wide. The whole moon and the whole sky are reflected in a drop of dew on the grass.Dōgen Zenji
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