You see … a man like me, a cautious man, has his life all figured out according to a pattern, and then the pattern flies apart. You run around for quite a while trying to repair it, until one day you straighten up again with an armful of broken pieces, and you see that the world has gone on without you and you can never catch up with your old life, and you must begin all over again.
The great stillness in these landscapes that once made me restless seeps into me day by day, and with it the unreasonable feeling that I have found what I was searching for without ever having discovered what it was.
When we are mired in the relative world, never lifting our gaze to the mystery, our life is stunted, incomplete; we are filled with yearning for that paradise that is lost when, as young children, we replace it with words and ideas and abstractions – such as merit, such as past, present, and future – our direct, spontaneous experience of the thing itself, in the beauty and precision of this present moment.
And only the enlightened can recall their former lives; for the rest of us, the memories of past existences are but glints of light, twinges of longing, passing shadows, disturbingly familiar, that are gone before they can be grasped, like the passage of that silver bird on Dhaulagiri.
In this very breath that we take now lies the secret that all great teachers try to tell us.
The concept of conservation is a far truer sign of civilization than that spoilation of a continent which we once confused with progress.
Zen is really just a reminder to stay alive and to be awake. We tend to daydream all the time, speculating about the future and dwelling on the past. Zen practice is about appreciating your life in this moment. If you are truly aware of five minutes a day, then you are doing pretty well. We are beset by both the future and the past, and there is no reality apart from the here and now.
The secret of the mountain is that the mountains simply exist, as I do myself: the mountains exist simply, which I do not. The mountains have no "meaning," they are meaning; the mountains are. The sun is round. I ring with life, and the mountains ring, and when I can hear it, there is a ringing that we share. I understand all this, not in my mind but in my heart, knowing how meaningless it is to try to capture what cannot be expressed, knowing that mere words will remain when I read it all again, another day.
Figures dark beneath their loads pass down the far bank of the river, rendered immortal by the streak of sunset upon their shoulders
You do your best work when you’re not conscious of yourself.
I … had what Kierkegaard called ‘the sickness of infinitude,’ wandering from one path to another with no real recognition that I was embarked upon a search, and scarcely a clue as to what I might be after. I only knew that at the bottom of each breath there was a hollow place that needed to be filled.
I was just very interested in the American frontier and the growth of capitalism – those enormous fortunes that were being made, more often than not, on the blood of poor people, black people, Indian people. They were the ones who paid very dearly for those great fortunes.
I have never figured out how women work but I do know that their skin color has no significance. Black or white, every last one is pretty pink on the inside and they are all impossible.
In nonfiction, you have that limitation, that constraint, of telling the truth.
Here I am, safely returned over those peaks from a journey far more beautiful and strange than anything I had hoped for or imagined – how is it that this safe return brings such regret?
If we were doomed to live forever, we would scarcely be aware of the beauty around us.
Have you seen the snow leopard? No! Isn’t that wonderful?
Amazingly, we take for granted that instinct for survival, fear of death, must separate us from the happiness of pure and uninterpreted experience, in which body, mind, and nature are the same. This retreat from wonder, the backing away like lobsters into safe crannies, the desperate instinct that our life passes unlived, is reflected in proliferation without joy, corrosive money rot, the gross befouling of the earth and air and water from which we came.
There’s an elegiac quality in watching [American wilderness] go, because it’s our own myth, the American frontier, that’s deteriorating before our eyes. I feel a deep sorrow that my kids will never get to see what I’ve seen, and their kids will see nothing; there’s a deep sadness whenever I look at nature now.
It is said in Java that the tiger’s hearing is so acute that hunters must keep their nose hairs cut lest the tiger hear the breath whistle through their nostrils.
I think in any writing you’re paying attention to detail.
In the clearness of this Himalayan air, mountains draw near, and in such splendor, tears come quietly to my eyes and cool on my sunburned cheeks. this is not mere soft-mindedness, nor am I all that silly with the altitude. My head has cleared in these weeks free of intrusions- mail, telephones, people and their needs- and I respond to things spontaneously, without defensive or self-conscious screens. Still, all this feeling is astonishing: not so long ago I could say truthfully that I had not shed a tear in twenty years.
It is related that Sakyamuni [the historical Buddha] once dismissed as of small consequence a feat of levitation on the part of a disciple, and cried out in pity for a yogin by the river who had spent twenty years of his human existence learning to walk on water, when the ferryman might have taken him across for a small coin.
The purpose of meditation practice is not enlightenment; it is to pay attention even at extraordinary times, to be of the present, nothing-but-in-the-present, to bear this mindfulness of now into each event of ordinary life.
In zazen, one is one’s present self, what one was, and what one will be, all at once.
Where to begin? Do we measure the relaxing of the feet? The moment when the eye glimpses the hawk, when instinct functions? For in this pure action, this pure moving of the bird, there is no time, no space, but only the free doing-being of this very moment -now!
I used to distinguish between my fiction and nonfiction in terms of superiority or inferiority.
Anyone who thinks they can save the world is both wrong and dangerous
I like to hear and smell the countryside, the land that my characters inhabit. I don’t want these characters to step off the page, I want them to step out of the landscape.
Simplicity is the whole secret of well-being.
My eye is fixed not on the ending of the book but on the feeling of that ending.
In fiction, you have a rough idea what’s coming up next – sometimes you even make a little outline – but in fact you don’t know. Each day is a whole new – and for me, a very invigorating – experience.
The ancient intuition that all matter, all "reality," is energy, that all phenomena, including time and space, are mere crystallizations of mind, is an idea with which few physicists have quarreled since the theory of relativity first called into question the separate identities of energy and matter. Today most scientists would agree with the ancient Hindus that nothing exists or is destroyed, things merely change shape or form; that matter is insubstantial in origin, a temporary aggregate of he pervasive energy that animates the electron.
Soon the child’s clear eye is clouded over by ideas and opinions, preconceptions, and abstractions. Simple free being becomes encrusted with the burdensome armor of the ego. Not until years later does an instinct come that a vital sense of mystery has been withdrawn. The sun glints through the pines and the heart is pierced in a moment of beauty and strange pain, like a memory of paradise. After that day, we become seekers.
It’s a simplification to say that the men [during Stone Age] went to war to maintain their dominance over the women. The men would help dig agricultural ditches because they were superb farmers. That was very heavy lifting work. But then they just preened themselves, and put bird-of-paradise plumes [in their hair], and smoked dope.