All that stuff we think we “know” is pretty unimportant.
Much more important? The stuff we don’t know, and realizing just how much of it there is. That “don’t know” place is a great place to stay because it’s real. It allows for a million possibilities we haven’t considered yet, and never will if we think we already know everything.
Today I was kicking around, frustrated, ruminating (sulking), puzzling and trying to throw everything I know at a few things I’m trying to sort out. But that’s ass-backwards. I need to stay with the don’t-know—my beginner’s mind. Instead of trying to pull out the big guns of whatever enlightenment we think we have, we can stay fresh. Instead of one-upping each other with what we’ve figured out, we can stay open, stay compassionate and stay in that “original mind” state.
“So the most difficult thing is always to keep your beginner’s mind. There is no need to have a deep understanding of Zen. Even though you read much Zen literature, you must read each sentence with a fresh mind. You should not say, ‘I know what Zen is,’ or ‘I have attained enlightenment’ This is also the real secret of the arts: always be a beginner.”
“In the beginner’s mind there is no thought, ‘I have attained something.’ All self-centered thoughts limit our vast mind. When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true beginners. Then we can really learn something. The beginner’s mind is the mind of compassion. When our mind is compassionate, it is boundless. Dogen-zenji, the founder of our school, always emphasized how important it is to resume our boundless original mind. Then we are always true to ourselves, in sympathy with all beings, and can actually practice.”
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”