There is an overwhelming wisdom in Zen teachings, which may seem in stark contrast with the values of our modern world. However, people who appreciate spiritual awareness, peace, balance, and detachment from material possessions will find in Zen a valuable source of inspiration and insight.
Explore our quotes and find the essentials about Zen teachings and their potential to empower you spiritually and mentally.
Obstacles don’t block the path. They are the path. – Zen Proverb
In Zen teachings, obstacles are seen as challenges meant to be overcome. Obstacles are also crucial for teaching us about our strengths and weaknesses. The path is never easy because otherwise we would never grow and find our inner compass.
Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine. – Shunryu Suzuki
Zen has nothing to do with excitement, happiness or joy. It is more about being focused on the present moment and being at peace with what the present offers. Even in the simplest moments of our daily routine, there are glimpses of the divine.
This is the real secret of life – to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play. – Alan Watts
Zen is all about engagement and focus. The greatest achievement of Zen practice is to be able to find peace and fulfillment in every second of life. Moreover, to be Zen is not to take things too seriously.
Wherever you are, be there totally. – Eckhart Tolle
Total presence of mind and spirit is a prerequisite for understanding the essence of Zen. You have to learn to engage fully with your environment and observe serenely the flow of thoughts and emotions that wash over you every single minute.
If you miss the present moment, you miss your appointment with life. That is very serious! – Thich Nhat Hanh
Zen teaches us that all the essence of life concentrates in the present moment. By learning to focus on the present, you learn to master life. Your appointment with life does not happen in a distant future but right now, in this moment that you can fully control.
Things derive their being and nature by mutual dependence and are nothing in themselves. – Nagarjuna
According to Zen teachings, all the beings in the universe are connected through intricate, invisible ties. We are able to exist because we can form relations with other beings, with our environment, and with humanity at large. In this co-dependence we find our meaning and discover our individual potential.
The practice of Zen is forgetting the self in the act of uniting with something. – Koun Yamada
To discover the true power of Zen, it is essential to get rid of the demands of the ego. The self links your spiritual being to the tumultuous world of desires, ambitions, frustrations, and fears. Peace is always outside the self.
The self divides into ten billion distinct illuminating spirits. Distinguish these without falling into names and classifications. – Hongzhi
Zen teachings aim to make us rediscover the connections between all elements, which come from the same divine source and will return to it. Separations and differences are nothing but illusions.
If you are unable to find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it? – Dogen
Zen is so powerful because it is democratic. For a superior spiritual understanding, you don’t need to be somewhere specific or do something extravagant. It is enough to understand that truth is everywhere where there is a consciousness. By focusing on the present moment and its richness, the simple truth reveals itself to you.
No thought, no reflection, no analysis, no cultivation, no intention; let it settle itself. – Tilopa
Finding true peace is not as easy as it may seem. It takes great willpower to silence all thoughts, to stop all desires, and to keep all emotions in check. To welcome the true essence of Zen into our lives we need to become empty recipients. This way, the sacred will find a place in our hearts.
No snowflake ever falls in the wrong place. – Zen Proverb
To understand Zen is to understand that everything that happens in life carries meaning, although it may not be easy to discern. In the web of relations and underlying connections that unite all beings and things in the universe, nothing happens at random.
In the scenery of spring, nothing is better, nothing worse; the flowering branches are; some long, some short. – Eicho
The Zen mindset rejects something that is very intricately woven into our perception of life, and that is duality. We judge life according to binaries such as good-wrong, just-injust, and many others. However, Zen rejects these subjective values. Everything exists in itself, beyond any attributes.
Not thinking about anything is Zen. Once you know this, walking, sitting, or lying down, everything you do is Zen. – Bodhidharma
Once your whole spirit adheres to the teachings of Zen, everything you do becomes infused with the Zen spirit. When you have the right mindset, every common activity transforms into an opportunity for revering life and living fully.
It all depends on you. You can go on sleeping forever, you can wake up right this moment. – Osho
To become Zen, you don’t have to do anything other than consciously deciding to take control over your thoughts. By paying attention to the inner processes of your mind and soul, you wake up to the Zen wisdom.
Let your mind wander in the pure and simple. Be one with the infinite. Let all things take their course. – Chuang Tzu
One of the important lessons of Zen is learning to let go. We are miserable because we don’t let our emotions and thoughts run freely. Once we immerse ourselves in the natural, simple flow of life, without imposing our will on it, we find our rhythm.
If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present. – Lao Tzu
The only way to find peace is to embrace the present because the present is the only time we have that is not burdened by mistakes, lost opportunities, expectations, or desires. The present is light and simple.
Flow with whatever may happen, and let your mind be free: Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate. – Zhuangzi
We can find Zen when our minds are free and when our souls are open to the world. To be Zen is to accept success and failure with the same tranquility, and to stay centered even when the world falls apart.
Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while peeling potatoes.
Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes. – Alan Watts
The power of Zen resides in its ability to transform our lives to the core. By gaining spiritual awareness, our perception of life gets cleansed and we open ourselves to the joy of living every minute, no matter how dull our activities would seem from the outside.
The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear. – Lao Tzu
By discovering Zen spirituality, you discover the power of silence and peace. You learn that when you’re quiet you are able to hear, see, and feel more because all your senses stay alert to the outer world. When you talk, you focus on your words and how you’re words are received, and you miss what happens around you.
Mind your thoughts, as they become your words. Mind your words, as they become your actions. Mind your actions, as they become you. – Buddha
Thoughts, words, and actions are interlinked in powerful ways. Our thoughts transform into words and words turn into actions, which means that controlling and refining our thoughts leads to better actions.
To seek is to suffer. To seek nothing is bliss. – Bodhidharma
To find Zen, we must stop all searches. Only when we stand still and wait patiently for life to follow its course, we can discover the bliss of Zen. To seek things means to have desires, and desires are traps that never let us find tranquility.
Consider your own place in the universal oneness of which we are all a part, from which we all arise, and to which we all return. – David Fontana
We are all unique beings with our own personalities, but our individuality does not negate the universal oneness of life. We are connected to everything and everything that exists has power over us, due to our common sacred source.
When you do something, you should burn yourself up completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself. – Shunryu Suzuki
Doing things halfheartedly is not a good practice because it forces you to separate your true thoughts from your actions. Whenever you do something, you must make sure that you put all our soul into it and only by doing that, you can hope of achievement.
Only when you can be extremely pliable and soft can you be extremely hard and strong. – Zen Proverb
Zen gives us different, peculiar definitions of strength and weakness. Those who are flexible and open to change are actually strong, while those who remain rigid against change are actually weak.
Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone. – Alan Watts
The world is so noisy and filled with so many stimuli that it is impossible for us to hear our own thoughts. To regain balance and find our voice, we need to retreat into silence, where we are free to explore the innermost chambers of the soul.
Man stands in his own shadow and wonders why it’s dark. – Zen Proverb
In Zen teachings, there is no good or evil. Everything bad that happens is the result of people harming themselves through negative thoughts and actions. People cannot find peace because they keep making noise, and they cannot find light until they stop hiding in the shadow.
The only Zen you can find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there. – Robert M. Pirsig
Zen can be found only within ourselves. It is hidden within us and travels with us wherever we go. We cannot search for it on the outside, in some faraway land, because it irrupts from our own spiritual self and it is one with it.
Think with your whole body. – Taisen Deshimar
Zen is balance and harmony. To think with your body and to feel with your mind is the ultimate conquest of Zen practice. Our minds, souls, and bodies must communicate with each other and find a congruent path for us to discover the essence of Zen wisdom.
Watch what you say, and whatever you say, practice it. – Soyen Shaku
If we cultivate harmony between our thoughts and actions, we discover that our lives enter a coherent flow, where every thought and action has a powerful meaning because it follows this hidden coherence.
For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them. – Thích Nhat Hanh
If there is one thing that Zen totally rejects, that is judgment. To judge means to categorize and to enforce separations, which is against all Zen teachings. To understanding things as they really are, we must not attack them with our prejudices and preconceived ideas.
To follow the path, look to the master, follow the master, walk with the master, see through the master, become the master. – Zen Proverb
To find and follow a master is very important in uncovering the secrets of Zen teachings. However, students of Zen can become masters themselves if they’re ready to dedicate themselves to their spiritual awakening.