Talk:Zen proverbs

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I think putting an explanation of a zen proverb is kind of inappropriate.

I agree. In fact I think we stopped putting meanings against any quotations near the beginning of the project. Notes are sometimes needed to explain the context of a quote, but just rewording a quotation detracts rather than adds to it. Nanobug 14:29, 5 Sep 2003 (UTC)

The words are interesting enough to attract attention and distract from a pure that why the (Chinese?) consider an interesting life to be a curse?


  • Please source your quotations. This is especially important in an article like this one, where dubious (or untraditional) zen aphorisms can pop up just about anywhere. (I am not saying we should not include untraditional quotations, but it would be nice to know where these are coming from).
  • Any help in sourcing the quotations we already have would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.  :)> tartaruga 17:37, 24 December 2006 (UTC)
  • I added the warning in bold to sort of counter the obvious problems with this article. I don't know what the correct tag would be, so I hope this is good enough for now. Eduardo Cuellar 08:25, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
  • I changed the warning to be (hopefully) more formal and accurate. -- 20:10, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
  • No the quotes from Stargate SG1 were taken from Zen Buddhist sayings and texts that have been around long before SG1. - zenpractioner

A good blogpost debunking some of these sayings. (not by me)

Any source that the Stargate saying preceeded Stargate?

Wise men learn by other men's mistakes, fools by their own.
--H. G. Bohn [1]
The tighter you squeeze the less you have.
Thomas Merton, American Trappist Monk. Merton dabbled with Buddhism

The tighter you squeeze the more star systems will slip through your fingers. - Princess Leia to Darth Vader

Zen students must learn to waste time conscientiously.
Another Thomas Merton quote, which appears to have been altered. The original: "Waste time conscientiously with God" -- a rather un-Buddhist reference to the deity of Western monotheism.
A weed is a plant whose virtues are only waiting to be discovered.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, "What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered."
You do not wait for fulfilment, but brace yourself for failure.
Seems to have originated from Eugen Harrigel:

A Nazi party member who studied archery under a teacher who did not self-identify as a Zen master.

also, Zen Buddhists do not seek "the one" so "the ways to the one are as many as the lives of men" does not seem very 'Zen.' Source? -- 03:15, 13 October 2008 (UTC)

  • "A samurai once asked Zen Master Hakuin where he would go after he died."...

Seems to be from Philip Kapleau, although the snippet view won't let me verify this. --Gwern 19:55, 14 August 2010 (UTC)


"At first, I saw mountains as mountains and rivers as rivers. Then, I saw mountains were not mountains and rivers were not rivers. Finally, I see mountains again as mountains, and rivers again as rivers."

This seems to be from 《五燈會元》卷十七《青原惟信禪師》, where 青原惟信禪師 is the author, though I have no valid translations to the name. Darksign 07:21, 20 September 2010 (UTC)



  • Zen is selling water by the river. (after Harada Daiun Sogaku roshi's last words)
  • There's no meaning to a flower unless it blooms.
  • Do not seek the truth, only cease to cherish (your) opinions.

Hsin Hsin Ming

  • If you understand, things are just as they are; if you do not understand, things are just as they are.
  • In the landscape of spring, there is neither better nor worse. The flowering branches grow naturally, some long, some short.
  • Knock on the sky and listen to the sound.
  • The ten thousand questions are one question. If you cut through the one question, then the ten thousand questions disappear.
  • The ways to the One are as many as the lives of men.
  • Though the bamboo forest is dense, water flows through it freely.
  • To do a certain kind of thing, you have to be a certain kind of person.
  • To follow the path, look to the master, follow the master, walk with the master, see through the master, become the master.
  • When the pupil is ready to learn, a teacher will appear.
  • Why do you ask questions? If you already knew the flame was fire then the meal was cooked a long time ago. (Oma Desala, Stargate SG-1; various)
  • At first, I saw mountains as mountains and rivers as rivers. Then, I saw mountains were not mountains and rivers were not rivers. Finally, I see mountains again as mountains, and rivers again as rivers.
  • If the problem has a solution, worrying is pointless, in the end the problem will be solved. If the problem has no solution, there is no reason to worry, because it can't be solved.
  • Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought.
  • Before enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water. After enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water.


  • An autumn night... don't think your life didn't matter.
  • There is nothing you can see that is not a flower; there is nothing you can think that is not the moon.

Ugo Betti

  • At any given moment, I open my eyes and exist. And before that, during all eternity, what was there? Nothing.


  • The torch of doubt and chaos, this is what the sage steers by.
  • It is everywhere.
  • To a mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.


  • If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?
  • Zazen is itself enlightenment.
  • The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in one dewdrop on the grass.
  • There is no beginning to practice nor end to enlightenment; There is no beginning to enlightenment nor end to practice.

T.S. Eliot

  • And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.


  • When you are deluded and full of doubt, even a thousand books of scripture are not enough. When you have realized understanding, even one word is too much.


  • Should you desire great tranquility, prepare to sweat white beads.


  • Zen: Seeing into one's own nature.


  • How do you step from the top of a 100-foot pole?

Muso Kokushi

  • It is better to practice a little than talk a lot.

Lao Tzu

  • We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.
  • A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Oscar Levant

  • So little time, so little to do.

Robert M. Pirsig

  • The only Zen you find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there.

Yasutani Roshi

  • The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there.

Baba Ram Dass

  • The quieter you become, the more you can hear.

Albert Schweitzer (paraphrased)

  • Natural and super-natural, temporal and eternal - continuums, not absolutes.

The Shodoka

  • You must neither strive for truth nor seek to lose your illusions.

D. T. Suzuki

  • We have two eyes to see two sides of things, but there must be a third eye which will see everything at the same time and yet not see anything. That is to understand Zen.
  • One falling leaf is not just one leaf; it means the whole autumn.

Shunryu Suzuki

  • As long as you seek for something, you will get the shadow of reality and not reality itself.
  • Zen is not some kind of excitement, but merely concentration on our usual everyday routine.
  • In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few.
  • The most important point is to accept yourself and stand on your two feet.
  • Life is like stepping onto a boat that is about to sail out to sea and sink.

Sayen Shaku

  • My heart burns like fire but my eyes are as cold as dead ashes.


  • To set up what you like against what you don't like -- this is the disease of the mind.
  • No yesterday, no tomorrow, and no today.
  • Don't seek reality, just put an end to opinions.

Gertrude Stein

  • When you get there, there isn't any there there.

Ts'ai Ken T'an

  • Water which is too pure has no fish.

Alan Watts

  • Nothing is exactly as it seems, nor is it otherwise.

Jesus Christ

  • Let the dead bury the dead.

Elie Wiesel

  • What does mysticism mean? It means the way to attain knowledge. It's close to philosophy, except in philosophy you go horizontally while in mysticism you go vertically.


  • Ten thousand flowers in spring; the moon in autumn; a cool breeze in summer; snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.
  • Since it is all too clear

It takes time to grasp it. When you understand that it's foolish to look for fire with fire, The meal is already cooked.

  • The instant you speak about a thing, you miss the mark.
  • If you're attached to anything, you surely will go far astray.
  • Only the crystal-clear question yields a transparent answer.
  • All of the significant battles are waged within the self.
  • Life is the only thing worth living for.
  • Better to sit all night than to go to bed with a dragon.
  • Live every day like your hair was on fire.
  • When you get to the top of the mountain, keep climbing.
  • The mind should be as a mirror.
  • There is nothing infinite apart from finite things.
  • Everyday life is the way.
  • Great Faith. Great Doubt. Great Effort. - The three qualities necessary for training.
  • If you do not get it from yourself, Where will you go for it?
  • Do not permit the events of your daily life to bind you, but never withdraw yourself from them.
  • Where there is great doubt, there will be great awakening; small doubt, small awakening, no doubt, no awakening.
  • Sitting peacefully doing nothing Spring comes and the grass grows all by itself.
  • Everything the same; everything distinct.
  • Lovely snowflakes, they fall nowhere else!
  • Chop wood, carry water.
  • Possessing much knowledge is like having a thousand foot fishing line with a hook, but the fish is always an inch beyond the hook.
  • A noble heart never forces itself forward. Its words are as rare gems, seldom displayed and of great value.
  • If you meet on the way a man who knows, Don't speak a word -- Don't keep silent!
  • Even a good thing isn't as good as nothing.
  • This is not the Buddha, this is the Buddha.
  • One moon shows in every pool, in every pool the one moon.
  • Studying Zen, learning the way, is originally for the sake of birth and death, no other thing.
  • What do I mean by other things? Arousing the mind and stirring thoughts right now; having contrivance and artificiality; having grasping and rejecting; having practice and realization; having purity and defilement; having sacred and profane; having Buddhas and sentient beings; writing verses and songs, composing poems and odes; discoursing on Zen and the way; discoursing on right and wrong; discoursing on past and present.
  • These various activities are not relevant to the issue of birth and death; they are all "other things."


  • No ego, no pain.

Freidrich Nietzsche

  • When you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.

Deletion discussion[edit]

This page was nominated for deletion. The result of this discussion was keep. BD2412 T 04:20, 12 December 2012 (UTC)