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12 Enlightening Quotes From Zen Masters

Ever since the Indian monk Bodhidharma introduced Buddhism to China around the fifth or sixth century CE, establishing what eventually became known as Zen Buddhism, masters of this spiritual pursuit have delivered morsels of wisdom that are equal parts enlightening and confounding.

Zen Buddhism rejects the dualistic, black-and-white thinking of modern life and instead focuses on the self and the strength that can be found within. For thousands of years, Zen teachers, philosophers, and poets have ruminated on the meaning of Zen, and provided quotes, anecdotes, and verses dedicated to illuminating its mysteries.

These 12 quotes come from Zen masters throughout history, from Bodhidharma himself to the Japanese teachers who introduced Zen to the U.S. in the 20th century.

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.
Shunryū Suzuki

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You ought to know how to rise above the trivialities of life, in which most people are found drowning themselves.
D.T. Suzuki

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A Buddha is someone who finds freedom in good fortune and bad.
Bodhidharma

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Each of you is perfect the way you are … and you can use a little improvement.
Shunryū Suzuki

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You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free.
Thích Nhất Hạnh

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Just be true, and there are no barriers.
Huineng

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A fool sees himself as another, but a wise man sees others as himself.
Dōgen Zenji

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Having no destination, I am never lost.
Ikkyū

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When reading, only read. When eating, only eat. When thinking, only think.
Seungsahn

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Those who do not have faith in others will not be able to stand on their own.
Sheng-yen

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No mud, no lotus.
Thích Nhất Hạnh

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To live is enough.
Shunryū Suzuki

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Featured image credit: Valerij Milanovic/ Shutterstock

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About the Author
Darren Orf
Darren lives in Portland, Oregon, has two cats, and writes about science, technology, nature, and history.
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