D.T. Suzuki Quotes and Bio


D.T. Suzuki(1870-1966) is considered one of the greatest Japanese and Zen philosophers of all-time. He played a huge role in introducing Zen to the west in the years after World War II. He was a prolific translator of Chinese, Japanese, and Sanskrit literature. He often lectured at western universities and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1963.

Suzuki has come under criticism in recent years for his support of Japanese militarism and even Nazis. One scholar, Brian Victoria, who studies the relationship between Buddhism in Japan and the Japanese war machine made huge news when he accused Suzuki of not only supporting Japanese militarism, but even Nazi policies prior to World War II.

Tricycle Magazine, the largest western Buddhist publication, later came to Suzuki’s defense and said that the scholarship that produced these criticisms was lacking. What is clear, as with all of us, Suzuki was at least partially a product of his time and place. That said, his contributions in bringing Buddhism to the west can hardly be denied.

Here are some of the most profound quotes from this great mind.

  1. I am an artist at living - my life is my work of art.

  2. When we start to feel anxious or depressed, instead of asking, "What do I need to get to be happy?" The question becomes, "What am I doing to disturb the inner peace that I already have?

  3. The mind has first to be attuned to the unconscious.

  4. The ego-shell in which we live is the hardest thing to outgrow.

  5. To Zen, time and eternity are one.

  6. Unless we agree to suffer, we cannot be free from suffering.

  7. Zen teaches nothing; it merely enables us to wake up and become aware. It does not teach, it points.

  8. Unless it grows out of yourself no knowledge is really yours, it is only borrowed plumage.

  9. Emptiness which is conceptually liable to be mistaken for sheer nothingness is in fact the reservoir of infinite possibilities.

  10. The waters are in motion, but the moon retains its serenity.

  11. Enlightenment is like every day consciousness, but two inches above the ground.

  12. The contradiction so puzzling to the ordinary way of thinking comes from the fact that we have to use language to communicate our inner experience, which in its very nature transcends linguistics.

  13. Life, according to Zen, ought to be lived as a bird flies through the air, or as a fish swims in the water.

  14. The intuitive recognition of the instant, thus reality is the highest act of wisdom.

  15. Eternity is the Absolute present.

  16. We teach ourselves. Zen merely points the way.

  17. Until we recognize the SELF that exists apart from who we think we are - we cannot know the Zen Mind.