Shunryu Suzuki famously said in Zen Mind, Beginners Mind

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few

But if one's beginners mind has gone is it possible to regain it. If so what can one do to get a beginner's mind back again.

The motivation for asking this is that after a years practice I had a very strong feeling of my beginners mind leaving me. I felt very fresh, vibrant and curious about practice for about a year then one day I could literally feel that ebb away. From that point my practice was different - maybe not worse but definitely has a different quality to it. It feels more like work I guess. So I've always been curious to whether that initial state would ever come back and if there was anything I could do to encourage it.


4 Answers 4


In the sense that Shunryu Suzuki uses "beginner's mind" there is no losing the beginners mind. It is our natural beingness. Being lost to it is believing there is something in this world of appearance that can fulfill us or satisfy our longing to be in "beginner's mind".

Here is one quote that talks about our natural beingness: http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/62707.Shunryu_Suzuki

“Whereever you are, you are one with the clouds and one with the sun and the stars you see. You are one with everything. That is more true than I can say, and more true than you can hear.” ― Shunryu Suzuki

The asker said

The motivation for asking this is that after a years practice I had a very strong feeling of my beginners mind leaving me.

The beginner's mind does not leave us, we leave the beginner's mind whenever we identify with the thoughts in our mind or believe we are separate from our natural being.

If we go to the original quote there is ample clarification of the sense intended http://www.cuke.com/Cucumber%20Project/lectures/srl%20la%20beginners%20mind.html

In beginner’s mind we have many possibilities, but in expert mind there is not much possibility. So in our practice it is important to resume to our original mind or inmost mind which we, ourselves, even we ourselves do not know what it is. This is the most important thing for us. The founder of our school emphasized this point. We have to remain always beginners mind. This is the secret of Zen and secret of various practices -- practice of flower arrangement, practice of Japanese singing and various art. If we keep our beginner’s mind, we keep our precepts. When we lose our beginner’s mind we will lose all the precepts and for Zen students the most important thing is not to be dualistic or not -- we should not lose our self-satisfied state of mind. We should not be too demanding, or we should not be too greedy. Our mind should always be rich and self-satisfied. When our mind become demanding -- when we become longing for something, we will violate our precepts not to kill, not to be immoral, not to steal, or not to tell lie and so on. Those are based on our greedy mind. When our mind is self-satisfied we keep our precepts. When we ourselves is always self-satisfied, we have our original mind and we can practice good and we are always true to ourselves. So the most difficult thing is to keep our beginner’s mind in our practice. So if you can keep your beginner’s mind forever, you are Buddha. In this point, our practice should be constant. We should practice our way with beginner’s mind always. There is no need to have deep understanding about Zen. Even though you read Zen literature you have to keep this beginner’s mind. You have to read it with fresh mind. We shouldn’t say, “I know what is Zen” or “I have attained enlightenment.”. We should be always big enough. This is very important. And we should be very very careful about this point.

"So in our practice it is important to resume [revert] to our original mind or inmost mind which we, ourselves, even we ourselves do not know what it is."

So if you feel like your practice does not bring you wholly aware in beginner's mind, let us just accept where we are right now. It is not something we must attain, but we must experience cessation from the samsara or worldly mind, then the Buddha mind or beginner's mind is self apparent.


In the Mahasi tradition we don't have the idea of beginner's mind, just a continuous refinement of the process. Many times throughout my practice, I've learned that some phenomena or thought process was just that—where previously I mistook it for a deeper reality. And I continue to experience these refinements.

But to attempt to answer your question, try not to hang on to the desire for Beginner's Mind. It will come back on its own. In addition, I would say be gentle to your mind and body. Those particular helped me the most when I was struggling in my practice. Maybe it will work the same way for you, in that being gentle with yourself may allow the Beginner's Mind to return when you least expect it.


A few years ago, I started having an experience like "I'm finally learning the things I knew when I was 17." (I'm 55 now; no implication that it takes decades, lol.)

It's natural to have beginner's mind when everything is a literally new experience, and you're "learning". Now, beginner's mind is still natural (see soulsings' answer), but a "learner" part of you will be participating in that, in new way after new way. That may seem like you're "learning more" (see qweilun's answer), or it may not require learning at all.

For those of us who came to Buddhist thinking thru New Age thinking, this is one of the places in New Age thinking, where it's easy to get stuck: thinking that it will always be spiritual "evolution", self "development" (whatever the self is ;) and "learning principles"... all of which has value, but if we "identify" with this "forever learner", it automates itself, and can be experienced as unstoppable, even as a burden...
Whereas another thing I've noticed recently: that my most touching "lessons" are not "learning"... less and less "new information"... more and more "old information freshly present."

Somewhat aside, but that you might enjoy considering: Gangaji, (a Zen Buddhist who became a student of Papaji), sometimes says things like this, that have a beginner's mind flavor, for me: "What is at peace, what is already free, what is endless in its realization of itself, is here now, and is who you are."
In that context, there is the endless, which will never provide a "place to land", and the already here, which does not require a "place to land."

  • 1
    "old information freshly present." Hurray! Beautiful! Last sentence is great also.
    – user2341
    Commented Jul 25, 2015 at 15:27

No. You'll never get it back. You're not a beginner anymore. Your definitions are what prevent you- the fact that you experience a "beginners mind" as something of its own means you hold yourself to those definitions. The mind should be in a constant state of what you might term "beginners mind" simply from knowing itself- they go hand in hand. Not just observing oneself, but the unity of knowing oneself. So I say; find yourself and you will have what you want. That's where I want to stop, because I don't think you'll really benefit from an explanation, but this is stack exchange so it's for everybody and I'll give some explanation.

What you are calling a beginners mind is a concept that you have extrapolated from something somebody once said. It was said to call attention to the particular ways of thinking by relating them to an experience we can relate to. When we are new to something, we are somewhat in awe of it because we cannot sometimes even fathom its circumference. To us, it is still infinite, in a sense. The expert, however, is well acquainted with something; to him, its circumference is well known. No mystery left there. But there is ALWAYS something more and you do yourself a disservice to ever think that you've seen it all. But really, these two are merely the two sides of a coin that you should just throw away. Hope this helps.

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