Zen mind, beginners mind - I

Before the rain stops we can hear a bird. Even under the heavy snow we see snowdrops and some new growth.”

Here in America we cannot define Zen Buddhists the same way we do in Japan. American students are not priests and yet not completely laymen. I understand it this way: that you are not priests is an easy matter, but that you are not exactly laymen is more difficult.You are on your way to discovering some appropriate way of life. I think that

is our Zen community,

our group.

But we must also know what our undivided original way is and what Dogen’s practice is. Dogen-zenji said that some may attain enlightenment and some may not. Although we all have the same fundamental practice which we carry out in the same way, some may attain enlightenment and some may not. It means that even if we have no experience of enlightenment, if we sit in the proper way with the right attitude and understanding of practice, then that is Zen. The main point is to practice seriously.

We say “big mind,” or “small mind,” or “Buddha mind,” or “Zen mind,” and these words mean something, you know,but something we cannot and should not try to understand in terms of experience. We talk about enlightenment experience, but it is not some experience we will have in terms of good or bad, time or space, past or future. It is experience or consciousness beyond those distinctions or feelings. So we should not ask, “What is enlightenment experience?” That kind of question means you do not know what Zen experience is. Enlightenment cannot be asked for in your ordinary way of thinking. When you are not involved in this way of thinking, you have some chance of understanding what Zen experience is.