What’s Possible

If one really wishes to be master of an art, technical knowledge of it is not enough. One has to transcend technique so that the art becomes an “artless art” growing out of the unconscious. D.T. Suzuki

The inward work, however, consists in his turning the man he is, and the self he feels himself and perpetually finds himself to be, into the raw material of a training and shaping whose end is mastery.

Steep is the way to mastery. Often nothing keeps the pupil on the move but his faith in his teacher, whose mastery is now beginning to dawn on him. He is a living example of the inner work, and he convinces by his mere presence.

Those who do not know the power of rigorous and protracted meditation cannot judge the self-control it makes possible. At any rate the perfected Master betrays his fearlessness at every turn, not in words, but in his whole demeanor: one has only to look at him to be profoundly affected by it. Unshakeable fearlessness as such already amounts to mastery, which, in the nature of things, is realized only by the few.

Every Master who practices an art molded by Zen is like a flash of lightning from the cloud of all-encompassing Truth. This Truth is present in the free movement of his spirit, and he meets it again, in “It,” as his own original and nameless essence. He meets this essence over and over again as his own being’s utmost possibilities, so that the Truth assumes for him—and for others through him— a thousand shapes and forms.

— Eugen Herrigel, Zen and the Art of Archery

How well I remember the bottomless mirth with which he invariably greeted neurotic presentations of self! In his presence, indeed, it seemed crazy to think in terms of “problems” at all. Soen Roshi embodied at all times the penetrating wisdom of “Everything is OK!”

— Louis Nordstrom, in Eido T. Shimano, Endless Vow: The Zen Path of Soen Nakagawa

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi was the first person I ever met for whom I felt immediate and total trust. It was something which I had never expected to experience. Every sense, every brain cell and nerve fiber in me suddenly woke up. I felt alert, and watchful, and euphoric, all at once. … It was that he was so simple and utterly there, standing in that dim room, looking at us. There was a nakedness about it. No cover-up, no attitude at all. His gaze was flat, and extraordinarily deep. I felt he saw into and through me, and in spite of, or perhaps because of that seeing, he was totally kind.

—Diane di Prima, Recollections of My Life as a Woman

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