Sans Traces

Noting another birthday, today it’s the great Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki, born May 18, 1904 in Kanagawa Prefecture Japan, died December 4, 1971, San Francisco, CA.

His classic work, Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind is an invaluable source of guidance for both beginning Buddhists (or those merely curious) and experienced dharma practitioners.  You can open it to any page and find a gem of insight, a pearl of wisdom.  Here is what I found on page 47:

Suzuki2016b2Most people have a double or triple notion in one activity. There is a saying, ‘To catch two birds with one stone.’ That is what people usually try to do. Because they want to catch too many birds they find it difficult to be concentrated on one activity, and they may end up not catching any birds at all! That kind of thinking always leaves its shadow on their activity. The shadow is not actually the thinking itself. Of course it is often necessary to think or prepare before we act. But right thinking does not leave any shadow. Thinking which leaves traces comes out of your relative confused mind. Relative mind is the mind which sets itself in relation to other things, thus limiting itself. It is this small mind which creates gaining ideas and leaves traces of itself.”

And so, it is the larger more spacious mind that we want to actualize.  This is what The Diamond Sutra is talking about, developing a mind that is apratishtita, a Sanskrit word that, as I have noted before, means “unsupported” or non-abiding.

In the sutra, the Buddha tells Venerable Subhuti that a “Bodhisattva should have an unsupported mind, that is, a mind which is nowhere supported, with thoughts unsupported by sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, or mind-objects.”  If we catching birds, our mind is unsupported by the idea of birds, our thoughts are as open and wide as the sky.

A mind that does not dwell anywhere and leaves no trace.

Before the chapter, “No Trace” is over, on page 49, Suzuki says,

When you do something, you should burn yourself completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.”

More posts concerning Shunryu Suzuki here.


4 thoughts on “Sans Traces

  1. Words of such simplicity that instill their message in the individual hearer or readers as if he/she had just been sitting in silence, no listening, no reading. Thanks, as always, David for your sharing.

    1. Yes, and one thing I always intend to mention but forget is that even though his guidance is Zen centered, it is really accessible to all.

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