I was thinking about Zen Master Taisen Deshimaru’s thoughts on discovering the greatness inside each of us. Like most Zen thinking, the ideas here can seem abstract and difficult to manage. I took the liberty of boiling the master’s thoughts into more digestible segments.
“Go back to the source, the place where it all begins. Learn what we really are and mean, find the true self.”
Have Few Desires
Living simply is a way of honoring the sacredness of life and expressing gratitude for the gifts of nature and spirit. This way is not a deprivation or a sacrifice but a joy and liberation. It is a way of living that can bring peace and happiness to oneself and others. It means being mindful of one’s needs and wants and choosing to live with less rather than more. It doesn’t mean you must live without or in squalor to live a simple life. For example, if you enjoy collecting vinyl records, you don’t have to stop doing it to live simply. Be mindful of its place in your life, not letting it become your fixation or sole source of happiness.
Buddha said, “Ambitious people who want honor and profit will suffer.”
As humans, our desires are endless. Once we attain or possess one thing, we seek the next
thing and the next thing after that — it’s a never-ending cycle. This cycle causes suffering.
Take time to stop and express thanks for the things you do have, regardless of how seemingly insignificant they may appear.
It Is Enough
In this mindset is a way of living in harmony with ourselves and the world. When we receive something, we should appreciate it as a gift and not compare it with others or wish for something better. We should say, “It is enough,” and be grateful for the present moment. This attitude can help us reduce stress, anxiety, and dissatisfaction. It can also make us more generous, compassionate, and mindful. By saying, “It is enough,” we acknowledge the abundance of life and the impermanence of things. We accept reality as it is and enjoy it fully.
Try to create a growth mindset that stops perceiving challenges as threats and believes they are opportunities to learn and grow.
Build self-reliance by trusting your judgment and making your own decisions. Being self-reliant you don’t need external validation or approval to feel good about yourself.
Let the shit go. Letting go can help you free yourself from negative emotions like anger, resentment, fear, or guilt.
Trust your intuition. Following your values and not letting others dictate what you should do or how you should live. Making decisions based on your values can be empowering and create confidence.
Self-acceptance is the key to feeling like you are enough. It means loving yourself unconditionally, regardless of your flaws, mistakes, or failures. It means recognizing your inherent worth and value as a human being.
“Whoever is not satisfied will always feel poor, even if he is rich.” - Taisen Deshimaru
Be Quiet, Unassuming & Joyful
Everyone respects those who live peacefully. Living alone, not physically but in a state of mind, would be best. Being alone in the sense of being unattached ends the source of suffering.
Being quiet, unassuming, and joyful is a way of living reflecting in Zen wisdom and compassion. Quietness means being mindful of one’s thoughts, words and actions and avoiding unnecessary noise and disturbance. Unassumingness means being humble and grateful and not seeking praise or recognition. Joyfulness means being content and happy with what one has and not being attached to or craving more.
Being quiet, modest, and joyful can cultivate a peaceful, harmonious mind free from greed, anger, and delusion. One can also foster a positive and respectful relationship with oneself and others and appreciate the upside and wonder of life. These behaviors are not passive or weak but rather potent and active, requiring constant practice and awareness. It is a way of being that can bring happiness and fulfillment to oneself and others.
As water constantly flowing over the same place can hollow out a stone, so can your continued effort. Your effort is a powerful force of will that can shape your destiny and achieve your goals over time. Just as water does not give up or change its course, so should you not give up or lose sight of your vision. You can make a difference in yourself and the world by being persistent and diligent.
We need to build faith in ourselves to cultivate a positive attitude. We must also be flexible and adaptable and learn from our mistakes and failures. We can overcome our obstacles, achieve our goals, and attain peace and happiness by keeping going.
Don’t push or overdo it.
Steady habits and rituals are necessary - they must be repeated every day. Whether you’re a yogi practicing asanas, studying sutras, or a Zenist practicing Zazen, this is a good rule. Stay on the path. Don’t seek shortcuts or immediate results.
Protect The Truth From Illusion
Here, the master refers to “the truth” as Dharma, the laws of the universe, known or unknown. The truth is not a fixed or static entity but a dynamic and interdependent process that manifests in every moment.
Truth is corrupted by illusion in the form of attachment to our false sense of self, which we construct from our memories, emotions, desires, fears, and projections. Here, we must be careful not to mislead ourselves with illusions and wrong thinking. The master tells us that the truth can be robbed by the “five thieves”: sex, overeating, love of honor, greed, and insanity.
Through meditation, we return to the peaceful and normal condition of the body and mind, to a place of thinking without thought, beyond thought. The meditation tool helps us calm our mind and body and observe our thoughts and feelings without getting attached to or involved.
In samadhi, we stop the activity of our consciousness and cease being aware of time, space, and causation. We enter a state of silence and stillness, where nothing disturbs us, and nothing distracts us. We are fully present in the here and now, without thoughts of the past or the future.
The world outside might appear full of turmoil, anguish, and rage, but we must remain calm to rediscover the normal condition of things. The typical shape of things is the state of harmony and peace that we experience when we are in tune with the cosmic order. It is the state of wisdom and compassion that we manifest when we realize our true self.
When we focus on breathing, counting, or following the inhalation and exhalation of our breath, we try to calm our mind and body and let go of any thoughts, feelings, or sensations that arise in our consciousness. We do not engage with, judge, or attach to them. We just observe them as passing phenomena that are not our true self.
We can understand the cosmic order of things by training our minds through zazen (meditation) and samadhi. The world outside might appear full of chaos, pain, and anger, but we must remain calm to rediscover the normal condition of things. This can only be found with consistent effort (see above section Keep Going).
Understand Your Energy
The energy you create by practicing zazen and samadhi is potent. Don’t underestimate or discount it. This energy cannot be measured or quantified physically, but it can be felt and experienced by yourself and others. This energy expresses your true nature, which is beyond words and concepts. It manifests your wisdom and compassion, which are inherent in all beings.
This energy can positively affect your life and the world around you.
It can help you to:
- Reduce stress, anxiety, and depression
- Improve your physical and mental health
- Enhance your creativity and productivity
- Strengthen your relationships and communication
- Develop your intuition and insight
- Awaken to the reality that is clear and undisguised
- Live in harmony with yourself and the world
Don’t Fight Or Argue
When we encounter a conflict or disagreement with someone, we often react with anger, fear, or defensiveness based on our past experiences or future expectations.
The Zen practice of compassion means feeling with others and wishing them well. It demonstrates the Zen wisdom of emptiness, which means seeing beyond the superficial differences and recognizing the interdependence and interconnectedness of all things. Accept that this life and world are impermanent — thinking any differently is to fight.
Regardless of the money in our bank accounts or how famous we become, our lives are not endless. Nothing more than a bubble on the surface of a stream that could burst at any moment.
About Taisen Deshimaru
A Sōtō Zen Buddhist teacher who founded the Association Zen Internationale. In 1967, Deshimaru went to Europe and settled in Paris to fulfill his master’s wish and spread the teachings of Zen. His teachings and mondo sessions were compiled in various books, including ‘Zen & Karma,’ ‘The Ring of The Way,’ ‘Sit,’ and many others. He died in Paris on April 30, 1982.