10 powerful Zen Master rules that will help you live a better life

Zen rules for living a better life

The first Zen Buddhist master that sailed to the United States was the famous Soyen Shaku, a master of the Rinzai school of Zen.

At the time of his arrival in America, Shaku’s fellow Zen priests believed that it was beneath their order to spread their teachings to an upstart country like the United States, as Japan saw the Western world as mostly barbaric.

However, Shaku accepted the invitation and sailed to the first official gathering of worldwide religions in Chicago in 1893 to represent Zen priests.

At that convention and in his life, Zen master Shaku shared the ten rules that he lived by, which he followed until his death:

1) Be Fearless Like a Hero Yet Loving Like a Child

Zen master rules for living a better life

There are many who sees the Zen religion as one pragmatic disconnectedness. As if there is a condition of apathy that is tied to the practice of being Zen.

However, this isn’t as true as you would think.

Zen believes in the importance of existing in the present moment, of being mindful of the present self.

This means making the best out of the now, including how we interact with others and how we treat the world at large.

We should not falter when adversity rears its ugly head, nor should we let our hearts grow cold and stiff from experience.

We should be aware of the importance of our interactions, whether that means intervening in a problem or helping another with our kindness.

We should be as fearless as a hero and as loving as a child, understanding both courage and compassion, and when one is needed over the other.

2) Do Not Say No To Opportunities, But Always Think Twice

Shaku believed in the importance of not letting life pass you by. You never know when an opportunity will ever come again, so when one does come, you should think about it and consider it as much as you can.

Will it add value to who you are as a person, and will taking this opportunity not harm the others in your life?

3) Treat Guests The Way You Would Treat The Act of Being Alone

Oftentimes, we switch faces or personalities when there are others in our home, as compared to when we are alone. Perhaps we stiffen up, or we hide away and act differently.

In many ways, we become unnatural because of the presence of another person.

However, Shaku believed that we should find the balance where we give guests the full presence that we have when we are alone.

And so too should we give our alone time the full presence and attention that we would give our guests.

4) Sleep At A Regular Time

Though it may seem simple, Shaku highly regarded the value of a regular and responsible sleeping hour.

Though we may be intellectual creatures, we are still driven by our physiological bodies, and we must respect the limitations of our bodies.

Sleeping properly is a key factor in how much energy you may or may not have, both mentally and physically.

By sleeping at a regular hour every day, you breed an internalized sense of discipline into yourself, giving your mind and body the rest it needs to perform optimally throughout the day.

5) Every Morning, Before Anything Else, Light Incense and Meditate

Meditation should be the absolute first thing you do every morning, according to Shaku.

Not only meditation, but lighting incense as well—the smell of incense has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and keep you calm.

Creating this ritual of calmness and peacefulness every morning gives your mind and body something new and relaxing to look forward to every day.

It ensures that every day starts off with the peacefulness to tackle the chaos of the world.

In fact, meditation has been one of the best habits I’ve ever adopted in my life.

I learned something called “focused meditation” over a 10-day course in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

All it involves is focusing on something like your breathe or an object while keeping your mind silent.

The training was difficult but once I got into the rhymrm and understood the core concepts of meditation and how the mind works, it began to be extremely beneficial and calming.

Now every morning I spend 20 minutes meditating. My focus has dramatically improved as well as my productivity and stress levels.

If you want to learn how to meditate and other mindful techniques you can use throughout the day, check out my book The Art of Mindfulness.

I spent countless hours researching the science behind meditation and the many different mindful techniques you can implement in your daily life.

I hope it can help you as much as it has helped me.

Check it out here.

6) Do Not the Mourn the Past; Just Work for the Future

While a Zen monk may preach the importance of the present more than anything else, the future is still something to keep in mind.

And Shaku believed that holding onto the past would bring nothing but toxicity to your life; instead, you must look forward to the future, and work towards the progress that you want.

7) Stay True To Your Word

Zen Master Shaku has two points when it comes to this message. When he says that you must stay true to your word, it means that you must watch everything you say: do not waste your words no idle chatter and gossip, because words are much more important than many of us realize.

Words have started wars, broken hearts, and ruined lives; and when many of our words are spoken, we do not see their weight until long after.

But when you do say something, you must stay true to it. Hold yourself by your words, and weigh your dignity by doing what you say. If can comfortably hold yourself to this, you will find peace within yourself.

8) Eat To Live, Do Not Live To Eat

Shaku believed in the importance of eating moderately. We should eat only until we are no longer hungry.

Unfortunately, many of us have been taught to eat as much as we want, for as long as we want, until long past our stomachs are in pain.

But eating to satisfaction will bring you nothing but stress, and Shaku knew that if you simply moderated what you ate, you could keep yourself much more mentally and physically healthy.

9) Sleep As If It Will Be Your Last


10) Wake As If You Will Never Wake Again

What do these two points mean? Simply put, Shaku meant that we should do everything with our fullest heart.

To live mindfully in every act that we do, even if it simply going to bed or waking up. Do not waste time by being distracted or confused; go to sleep and wake up with a purpose, even if you are not sure what that purpose may be. Because after a while, you will find it.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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