LEARNING WITH A BEGINNER’S MIND

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few. ” (Suzuki Roshi)

This is the quality of mind that is essential for all learners, be it learning about our universe, learning academic subjects or learning about life. A mind that has been structured and schooled will approach learning in a linear way. The unschooled mind tends to approach learning in a more creative and multi-pronged manner. The beginner’s mind is a mind of intense curiosity and clarity, unclouded by conditioned views and thoughts. All young children possess this Beginners’ Mind – until they go to school to have their beginners’ mind replaced with the unthinking mind.

CLiC had the honour of hosting David & Katrinka Chadwick at our center last week from 12th – 15th March 2014. David is a Zen practitioner who had learnt from Master Suzuki many many years ago. Together they have done much work in writing, compiling and editing Suzuki Roshi’s lectures and notes on their website www.cuke.com.

At CLiC, David had spent an afternoon with the kids, showing them a video presentation on the solar system. Here is what he wrote in his blog (slightly edited by Wai Leng) on cuke.com:

3-13-14 – We’re in Kuala Lumpur now staying at CLIC (Cooperative Learning Initiative Community) that’s in a residential area. It’s also a school run by Wai. Her husband is Vidya. I met them through Alan Senauke. They are engaged Buddhists. Everyone grew up speaking English. Laura, “Christian name (from Little House on the Prairie),” is here with three darling children three days a week. Katrinka was still sleeping and I was out front sitting watching the day start and Laura took me through the neighborhood, around a park to a stand with folding table set up and Muslim family serving up food in waxy brown paper wrapped to go. The air is filled with smoke reminding me of Tassajara when there’s a forest fire somewhere in the woods, not smog or at least the smog is overwhelmed. I can use Indonesian here to communicate and they say oh, you speak Malaysian (which Indonesian is based on). But seems everyone speaks at least a little English. This was part of the English Empire.

3-14-14 – Yesterday at the CLIC (Cooperative Learning Initiative Community) where Katrinka and I are staying in Kuala Lumpur, we spent the afternoon with ten great little kids ages six to eleven and a couple of babies and some mommies and daddies. Some of the kids watched as it took a little eternity to get to Pluto on the tediously accurate map of our solar system as featured yesterday on cuke. We talked about all that celestial scale stuff as featured here before. I pointed out that Einstein said physicists know all time is simultaneous and that space and time are inseparable so that all space and time exists in each spot too so that it’s all inside us as well. Then we sang Row Row Row Your Boat as a round, a song that I feel perfectly expresses the nature of reality.

Then a parent asked about Zen. I think everyone was Chinese Malaysian so I said it was Japanese for Chan which comes from dhyana which means meditation. It turns out that they meditate for five minutes a couple of times a week so we did that sitting in a circle. Not a kid made a sound. When it was over I asked where does all this space and time come from? I pointed out that none of the three great traditions in China – Daoism, Buddhism, Confucianism have a theistic creator myth. I didn’t bring up all the superstition and other tangles they get into. Buddha was asked where it all came from and he said there was no creator other than mind itself. And this doesn’t mean brain or individual mind, but the awareness we all share. Then we sang happy birthday and had cake.

Wai, our host along with Vidya, is in charge of the school. Here’s her website for the school and education: Learning Beyond Schooling.

3-15-14 – Photos of our friends Vidya and Wai and others and us including the kids and the school in Kuala Lumpur. Info about it all below. Leaving soon. Thanks to Vidyananda Soon and Chong Wai Leng, our wonderful hosts in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – for the friendship, puer tea, dim sum and den some.

David & Katrinka will be stopping by KL again some time in June! Do drop by and say hi to them :)) and perhaps sit in Zazen together! 🙏

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