25 Powerful Quotes From Zen Buddhism That Will Change Your Perspective on Life

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Zen monk

Zen Buddhism is a profound philosophy that counters much of what we’re taught in the west.

In western society, we tend to think that we’ll find happiness once we reach certain goals. However, Zen Buddhism says that happiness doesn’t come from any outside achievements. Instead, it believes that true inner peace comes from within.

The key, according to Zen, is to let go of attachments and embrace living fully in the present moment. It’s certainly an outlook on life that all could benefit from, no matter your religion or race.

Below we have found 25 pieces of concise Zen Buddhist wisdom that summarize the wisdom of life. I hope they shift your perspective as much as they have mine. Enjoy!

On Suffering

“A student, filled with emotion and crying, implored, “Why is there so much suffering?” – Suzuki Roshi replied, “No reason.” – Shunryu Suzuki

“In Zen there must be satori; there must be a general mental upheaval which destroys the old accumulations of intellection and lays down the foundation for a new life; there must be the awakening of a new sense which will review the old things from a hitherto undreamed-of angle of observation.” – D.T. Suzuk

“To seek is to suffer. To seek nothing is bliss.” – Bodhidharma

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” – Pema Chödrön

On Buddhism

“To have some deep feeling about Buddhism is not the point; we just do what we should do, like eating supper and going to bed. This is Buddhism.” – Shunryu Suzuki

On Meditation

“While you are continuing this practice, week after week, year after year, your experience will become deeper and deeper, and your experience will cover everything you do in your everyday life. The most important thing is to forget all gaining ideas, all dualistic ideas. In other words, just practice zazen in a certain posture. Do not think about anything. Just remain on your cushion without expecting anything. Then eventually you will resume your own true nature. That is to say, your own true nature resumes itself.” – Shunryu Suzuki

“In the zazen posture, your mind and body have, great power to accept things as they are, whether agreeable or disagreeable. In our scriptures (Samyuktagama Sutra, volume 33), it is said that there are four kinds of horses: excellent ones, good ones, poor ones, and bad ones. The best horse will run slow and fast, right and left, at the driver’s will, before it sees the shadow of the whip; the second best will run as well as the first one does, just before the whip reaches its skin; the third one will run when it feels pain on its body; the fourth will run after the pain penetrates to the marrow of its bones. You can imagine how difficult it is for the fourth one to learn how to run!” – Shunryu Suzuki

“In zazen, leave your front door and your back door open. Let thoughts come and go. Just don’t serve them tea.” – Shunryu Suzuki

On the Present Moment

“Shohaku Okumura ~ We cannot expect any ecstasy greater than right here, right now—our everyday lives.” – Kosho Uchiyama Roshi

On Zen

“Trying to explain Zen is like trying to catch wind in a box; the moment you the lid it ceases to be wind and in time becomes stagnant air.” – Alan W. Watts

On Acceptance

“Unaccepted, the universe has no meaning; it is senseless fate and chaos, but acceptance is a way of discovering meaning, not of manufacturing it.” – Alan W. Watts

“When you realize nothing is lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzu

“Everything that has a beginning has an ending. Make your peace with that and all will be well.” – Jack Kornfield

On Taking Action

“Each morning, we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” – Buddha

On the Self

“The practice of Zen is forgetting the self in the act of uniting with something.”– Koun Yamada

“What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others.” – Confucius

“When we discover that the truth is already in us, we are all at once our original selves.” – Dogen

On Mindfulness

“The feeling that any task is a nuisance will soon disappear if it is done in mindfulness.” – Thich Nhat Hahn

On Judging Others

“Wise men don’t judge – they seek to understand.” – Wei Wu Wei

On the Power of a Calm Mind

“The noble-minded are calm and steady. Little people are forever fussing and fretting.” – Confucius

“Rest and be kind, you don’t have to prove anything.” – Jack Kerouac

On Letting Go

“Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.” – Rumi



Clifton Kopp

Welcome to my writings on Hack Spirit! I'm a bit of a "polymath" in that I like writing about many different things. Often I'm learning from the process of writing. I hope you enjoy, and please leave a comment on one of my articles.

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