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Why We Practice

We aspire to perceive our true nature and to understand our correct job in the world. Sometimes we express this by telling ourselves to make a firm determination to attain enlightenment and help others. We frequently hear it said that at the very moment one gives rise to a sincere aspiration for pratice, one has the first moment of enlightenment. This is why the phrase "Zen mind, beginner's mind" is so apt.

The term "beginner's mind" comes from the Hua Yen Sutra. The sutra tells a long story about a young pilgrim named Sudhana who goes seeking enlightenment from fifty-three different teachers. When he starts on his journey, the first teacher he comes to is Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Primal Wisdom. Manjushri then sends him on a journey to the other fifty-two teachers. After he has passed through all this refinement of practice, he again meets Manjushri. The meaning of this is clearly that where you begin is where you end. The path of practice is the expression of compassion and wisdom as they come together in our activity at the moment. Wishing to see true nature is to give rise to the kind of aspiration that sustains our practice and upon which our practice is based.

—Zen Master Wu Kwang (Richard Shrobe)
From Elegant Failure: A Guide To Zen Koans

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