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What does it mean to be Zen? How do you get into a Zen state of mind?
Zen has its roots in Mahayana Buddhism, a school that teaches Taoist philosophy and Chinese spiritual practice. It emphasizes the human’s capability to train self-control, awareness, and meditation. Strictly translated into plain English, it means “meditative state of mind.”
Most—if not all—Zen teachings aim to help believers live peaceful, mindful, and happy lives. Meditation—the heart of Zen—is where it is mainly founded. The goal is to make sense out of the present moment.
Experts say that achieving a Zen state of mind can be a difficult path to take. It is not for everybody. But for those who put in the effort, it can be incredibly rewarding.
In this article, we bring you 101 Zen quotes about life, love, and death. If you yearn to know more about Zen and how to practice it, you might find inspiration in these quotes.
First, let’s talk about living a happy, peaceful life. More than religion or philosophy, Zen is a way of life that you can practice regardless of your beliefs.
Zen Quotes on Life
- “When you realize nothing is lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzu
- “Rest and be kind, you don’t have to prove anything.” – Jack Kerouac
- “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” – Pema Chödrön
- “The mind of the beginner is empty, free of the habits of the expert, ready to accept, to doubt, and open to all the possibilities.” – Shunryu Suzuki
- “Wherever you are, it’s the place you need to be.” – Maxime Lagacé
- “Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” – Bruce Lee
- “Treat every moment as your last. It is not preparation for something else.” – Shunryu Suzuki
- “Learn to be comfortable in adversity but most importantly, learn to be comfortable when you’re bored.” – Maxime Lagacé
- “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as if nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein
- “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” – Sun Tzu
“A man is great not because he hasn’t failed; a man is great because failure hasn’t stopped him.” – Confucius
- “Respect life, revere life. There is nothing more holy than life, nothing more divine than life.” – Osho
- “When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways – either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits or by using the challenge to find our inner strength. Thanks to the teachings of Buddha, I have been able to take this second way.” – Dalai Lama
- “Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion.” – Buddha
- “The good life can be as simple as just paying attention.” – Charlie Ambler
“Realize that life will never be how you want it to be. Jump in regardless. The jump itself is living; its whole spectrum, its entire beauty.” – Mr. Mircea
- “Nature is full of chaos and conflict. Don’t resist these things. Invite them in.” – Charlie Ambler
There will always come a time in your life when you no longer have the courage and strength to deal with the challenges you face. During those times, you often start to think that there is no hope.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. You are allowed to fail and feel pain, but eventually you have to put yourself back together. Life is tough, but you need to be tougher—and with a Zen state of mind, you can win the battle.
Now let’s talk about love. What does love mean if you are living in Zen? Our next set of quotes will teach you how to love yourself, other people, and the world unconditionally.
Zen Quotes on Love
- “If we do not know how to take care of ourselves and to love ourselves, we cannot take care of the people we love. Loving oneself is the foundation for loving another person.” – Thích Nhất Hạnh
“If you truly loved yourself, you could never hurt another.” – Buddha
- “Silence is the language of Om. We need silence to be able to reach our Self. Both internal and external silence is very important to feel the presence of that supreme Love.” – Amit Ray
- “Love is a gift of one’s innermost soul to another so both can be whole.” – Buddha
- “Just as a mother would protect her only child with her life, even so, let one cultivate a boundless love towards all beings.” – Buddha
- “The words of the Buddha offer this truth: Hatred never ceases by hatred but by love alone is healed.” – Jack Kornfield
“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.” – Thích Nhất Hạnh
- “Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.” – Dalai Lama
- “Everyone has a spirit that can be refined, a body that can be trained in some manner, a suitable path to follow. You are here to realize your inner divinity and manifest your innate enlightenment.” – Morihei Ueshiba
- “Friendship is the purest love. It is the highest form of Love where nothing is asked for, no condition, where one simply enjoys giving.” – Osho
- “To know yourself as the Being underneath the thinker, the stillness underneath the mental noise, the love, and joy underneath the pain is freedom, salvation, enlightenment.” – Eckhart Tolle
- “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love.” – Buddha
- “Love is of all passions the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart, and the senses.” – Lao Tzu
- “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” – Buddha
“Nirvana or lasting enlightenment or true spiritual growth can be achieved only through persistent exercise of real love.” – M. Scott Peck
- “You have to grow from the inside out. None can teach you, none can make you spiritual. There is no other teacher but your own soul.” – Swami Vivekananda
Love is not just about two people sharing a relationship with each other. We can find love in many other areas of our lives, like family, friends, passion, and ourselves.
Zen teaches us to love unconditionally, free from doubts, regrets, and hesitations. When we love, we embrace everything that love itself has to offer. We don’t love because we want to receive it in return; we love because we choose to give of ourselves.
Our next set of quotes talks about death and the peacefulness it must bring. Sometimes we fear death because it ends everything we have worked for. But Zen teaches us that death is inevitable. Hence, we shouldn’t fear it. Instead, we should focus on making the most out of life.
Zen Quotes on Death
- “If a warrior is not unattached to life and death, he will be of no use whatsoever.” – Yamamoto Tsunetomo
“Forget the years, forget distinctions. Leap into the boundless and make it your home.” – Zhuangzi
- “Peace of mind is that mental condition in which you have accepted the worst.” – Lin Yutang
- “The true miracle is not walking on water or walking in air, but simply walking on this earth.” – Thích Nhất Hạnh
- “Roads were made for journeys, not destinations.” – Confucius
- “The personal life deeply lived always expands into truths beyond itself.” – Anais Nin
“You look at where you’re going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge.” – Robert M. Pirsig
- “Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend – or a meaningful day.” – Dalai Lama
- “When you accept what is, every moment is the best moment. That is enlightenment.” – Eckhardt Tolle
- “Not everything happens for a reason. Nature is not rational. Just make peace with whatever happens.” – Charlie Ambler
- “The way to free yourself of pain and suffering is to accept it.” – Charlie Ambler
- “Neither fire, nor wind, birth, nor death, can erase our good deeds.” – Buddha
- “The world is afflicted by death and decay. But the wise do not grieve, having realized the nature of the world.” – Buddha
- “We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever; the goal is to create something that will.” – Chuck Palahniuk
“Live your life, do your work, then take your hat.” – Henry David Thoreau
- “A man with outward courage dares to die; a man with inner courage dares to live.” – Lao Tzu
- “I don’t want to die without any scars.” – Chuck Palahniuk
- “Tell your friend that in his death, a part of you dies and goes with him. Wherever he goes, you also go. He will not be alone.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti
People fear death for a variety of reasons. Some are afraid to experience the pain of slowly dying in the arms of their loved ones; others just can’t accept the fact that their lives are about to end. There are also those who fear it because of the uncertainty of the afterlife.
Regardless of what comes after death, what matters most is how you lived your life when you still had the chance. While you are alive, work to leave a lasting legacy. Live your life to the fullest and assure your future happiness.
Speaking of happiness, we can’t finish our collection of Zen quotes without looking at those that help you live a happy life.
Zen Quotes on Happiness
- “The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness.” – Eric Hoffer
- “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” – Buddha
- “Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.” – Dalai Lama
“There is no path to happiness: happiness is the path.” – Buddha
- “If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else.” – Confucius
- “It is possible to live happily in the here and now. So many conditions of happiness are available – more than enough for you to be happy right now. You don’t have to run into the future in order to get more.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “The three elements of creativity are thus: loving, knowing, and doing – or heart, mind, and hands – or, as Zen Buddhist teaching has it; great faith, great question, and great courage.” – Eric Maisel
- “There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” – Dalai Lama
- “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” – Buddha
- “Happiness is the default state. Its what’s there when you remove the sense that something is missing in life. People believe mistakenly that happiness is about positive thoughts and positive action but every positive thought essentially holds within itself a negative thought.” – Naval Ravikant
“You can be happy if you are willing to let go of your past and leave yourself unencumbered so you can fly freely.” – Chris Prentiss
- “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” – Dalai Lama
- “Flow with whatever may happen, and let your mind be free: Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate.” – Chuang-Tzu
- “We do not exist for the sake of something else. We exist for the sake of ourselves.” – Shunryu Suzuki
- “To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don't need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” – Thích Nhất Hạnh
- “Do not follow the idea of others, but learn to listen to the voice within yourself.” – Dōgen Zenji
- “When it is understood that one loses joy and happiness in the attempt to possess them, the essence of natural farming will be realized. The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” – Masanobu Fukuoka
- “Happiness lies even in little tiny butterflies. You just have to open up your eyes and see where beauty flies to beautify your world lengthwise.” – Ana Claudia Antunes
- “Stay in the center, and you will be ready to move in any direction.” – Alan W. Watts
- “What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others.” – Confucius
- “Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.” – Confucius
- “Wise men don’t judge – they seek to understand.” – Wei Wu Wei
- “The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?” – Confucius
- “Only the hand that erases can write the true thing.” – Meister Eckhart
- “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen
- “The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands.” – Robert M. Pirsig
- “The resistance to the unpleasant situation is the root of suffering.” – Ram Dass
- “I don’t mind what happens. That is the essence of inner freedom.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti
- “It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
- “Your mind is a mad monkey trying to understand life which is unfair and crazy. Get used to it.” – Maxime Lagacé
- “Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” – Lao Tzu
- “The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.” – Bruce Lee
- “The less you try to impress, the more peaceful you can be.” – Maxime Lagacé
- “Now I know what success is: living your truth, sharing it.” – Kamal Ravikant
- “These mountains that you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb.” – Najwa Zebian
- “They call it ‘peace of mind’ but maybe it should be called ‘peace from mind’.” – Naval Ravikant
- “It is easy to believe we are each wave and forget we are also the ocean.” – Jon J. Muth
- “I don’t hold on to anything, don’t reject anything; nowhere an obstacle or conflict.” – Layman Pang
- “Emptiness which is conceptually liable to be mistaken for sheer nothingness is in fact the reservoir of infinite possibilities.” – D.T. Suzuki
“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” – Buddha
- “Life is more or less a lie, but then again, that’s exactly the way we want it to be.” – Bob Dylan
- “Only when you can be extremely pliable and soft can you be extremely hard and strong.” – Zen Proverb
- “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Have the fearless attitude of a hero and the loving heart of a child.” – Soyen Shaku
- “If you are unable to find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?” – Dogen
Zen teaches us to slow down a little so we can achieve happiness and peace of mind. Moreover, it develops our sense of compassion and understanding. It lets us discover what the most important things in our lives are.
In this digital era, where everything is fast-paced, slowing down may be what people need the most. With the quotes we provided above, we hope that we were able to enlighten your mind about how a Zen practice can change your life.
Did any of the quotes resonate with you, or were they applicable to the way you are currently living your life? We’d love to know which one. Feel free to share a comment or two in the fields provided below.
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And if you want more inspirational quotes, be sure to check out these blog posts:
- 60 Good Vibes Quotes to Uplift Others
- 79 Mindfulness Quotes for a More Mindful Life
- 75 Positive Energy Quotes to Attract Good Things in Your Life
Finally, if you want to use these quotes to make a lasting change to your life, then check out and recite these 57 affirmations for success.