For those who keep asking me, “What books should I read, O Master?” but who have not read Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, and for those who keep asking, “I have no teacher, whatever shall I do?” I present this excerpt from Shunryu Suzuki’s classic. It’s on page 72 and the chapter is called “Right Attitude.” Take it away, Shunryu!
“Our Soto way puts an emphasis on shikan taza, or ‘just sitting.’ Actually we do not have any particular name for our practice; when we practice Zen we just practice it. Even though we are sleepy, and we are tired of repeating the same thing day after day; even so we continue our practice. Whether or not someone encourages our practice, we just do it.
“Even when you do Zazen alone, without a teacher, I think you will find some way to tell whether your practice is adequate or not. When you are tired of sitting, or when you are disgusted with your practice, you should recognize this as a warning signal. You become discouraged with your practice when your practice has become idealistic. You have some gaining idea in your practice, and it is not pure enough. It is when your practice has become rather greedy that you become discouraged with it. So you should be grateful you have had some warning signal to show the weakness in your practice. At the same time, forgetting about your mistake and renewing your way, you can resume your original practice. This is a very important point.”
By the way, for the “I have no teacher” crowd, you know, you really do need to make a little effort. It’s not enough to just Google® the name of your hometown and the word “Zen” and then just give up when the entries you find there don’t live up to your expectations. In Zen, there’s a saying that you should not answer questions about Buddhism until the questioner asks three times. I don’t know anyone who practices this literally. It’s just a rule of thumb to follow so that you’re not wasting time with people who just want to make frivolous conversation and who are not serious. Many good teachers do not advertise their presence. Most of them certainly don’t blog!
My advise to those who don’t have a teacher? Get out from behind your computer screen and look. It takes time sometimes.