Welcoming Beginner's Mind: Zen and Tibetan Buddhist Wisdom on Experiencing Our True Nature (Paperback)

Welcoming Beginner's Mind: Zen and Tibetan Buddhist Wisdom on Experiencing Our True Nature By Gaylon Ferguson Cover Image
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This nuanced commentary on the famous Zen oxherding pictures explores the paradox of welcoming our true nature anew at each stage of spiritual unfolding.

Renowned for centuries, the classic Zen oxherding pictures vividly illustrate the stages of the spiritual journey—from seeking and finding to ultimately forgetting the illusory self and awakening to our true nature. In his commentary on these images, Gaylon Ferguson guides us on an experiential path into these seeming contradictions through welcoming—the simple, challenging, and always new possibility of opening to exactly what’s occurring in our experience. Distinct from meditation and mindfulness, this contemplative exercise leads us beyond spiritual bypassing (using spiritual practices to repress or avoid parts of ourselves) and spiritual materialism (practicing with a heavy sense of ego). Rich with teachings from the great Zen teacher and author of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, as well as extensive commentary from Tibetan meditation master Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and others who have illuminated the oxherding pictures, this book invites you into a process of spiritual maturation that never occurs elsewhere than here or other than now.
Featuring a foreword by David Chadwick, author of Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki.

About the Author

GAYLON FERGUSON, PhD, has practiced and taught Buddhism for over four decades. He received a doctorate in cultural anthropology in 1996 and taught at several universities, including fifteen years as core faculty at Naropa. He is a senior dharma teacher in the Shambhala International Buddhist community and has led meditation programs in numerous cities in the U.S. and internationally since 1976. He has been published in anthologies including Dharma, Color, and Culture; Mindful Politics; and Black and Buddhist, and he is the author of Natural Wakefulness and Natural Bravery.

Praise For…

“This beautiful book offers not only a refreshing new take on Zen’s oxherding pictures but also a deep path to awakening based not on seeking but on welcoming and allowing experience here and now, just as it is, again and again. In doing so, it brings together two great Mahayana traditions, Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, in a radical, heart-filled, and profoundly wise fusion that will serve as an invaluable guide for many in our troubled times.”
Henry Shukman, Zen teacher and author of One Blade of Grass

Welcoming Beginner’s Mind is a wonderful addition to a body of literature emerging from the dialogical encounters among Buddhist traditions in the West. Gaylon Ferguson draws on his decades of practicing and teaching Tibetan Buddhism to offer a fresh reading of a Zen classic, the ten oxherding pictures, instructing us along the way how to wholeheartedly welcome the empty-fullness of each moment of our lives.”
Bret W. Davis, author of Zen Pathways

Welcoming Beginner’s Mind is an experiential journey of ‘welcoming’ your mind and heart into your own goodness and ease with the world. In a deceptively easy-going manner, Ferguson offers commentary on the famous Zen oxherding pictures that depict the stages of the path and combines this with the presentation of a few brief and simple practices—so simple they barely exist (‘sit for three minutes . . . don’t meditate’). No doing here, only undoing. I think you will want to read this book more than once.”
Norman Fischer, poet, Zen priest, and author of When You Greet Me I Bow

“This is a wonderful book that can give readers who practice in any spiritual tradition—and those who don’t—a new and enriched perspective on their experience. Using apparently simple everyday terms and contemplations such as welcoming and noticing, the author leads us on the magical path of the ten oxherding pictures of Zen Buddhism into the depths of our own mind. Just read, follow along, and do the contemplations, and you may well be repeatedly and gladly surprised.”
Eleanor Rosch, professor emeritus at the University of California Berkeley Department of Psychology and Cognitive Science and co-author of The Embodied Mind

“As the visual expression of the Bodhisattva’s journey, the ten oxherding pictures, which I’ve loved and studied since my teens, have no equal among the world’s artistic and spiritual masterpieces. With Buddhist learning that is insightful and inspiring, experiential and scholarly, Gaylon Ferguson’s Welcoming Beginner’s Mind is an exploration of the oxherding pictures with wise exercises, for which I am deeply grateful.”
Charles Johnson, author of Oxherding Tale and Middle Passage

“Gaylon Ferguson has harvested a lifetime of deep study, disciplined contemplative practice, and internationally acclaimed teachings to present us with a magnificent tree of Buddhist wisdom. With Chinese Ch’an and Taoism, Japanese Zen, and Tibetan Tantra providing its deep roots and sturdy trunk, this tree also branches out in diverse directions, bearing fragrant blossoms from a rainbow of world cultures and ethnicities. At the heart of Welcoming Beginner’s Mind lies a deceptively simple three-minute exercise that, Gaylon insists, is not meditation, but paradoxically tells us is ‘the secret key to meditation.’ This welcoming practice gently invites us into a state of ‘basic innocence.’ Whatever arises in our moment-to-moment experience—sense perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and body sensations—is welcomed and accepted just as it is. Running like a leitmotif through the book’s cogent expositions of key concepts, illuminating metaphors and quotations, humorous asides, and much more, this essential practice of welcoming brings us back again and again to an experience of non-doing: No technique, no goal, no right and wrong. Just being.By allowing all phenomena (a Greek word meaning simply ‘that which appears’) into the light of awareness and by heeding the author’s patient, warm, and expert guidance, we are empowered to traverse the experiential stages of a path to the realization of our deepest, most authentic human nature. I have been a Buddhist meditator for more than fifty years, and this book has helped me immensely.”
David I. Rome, author of Your Body Knows the Answer and editor of Timely Rain: Selected Poetry of Chögyam Trungpa

“In Welcoming Beginner’s Mind, Gaylon Ferguson points out that when we resist or shut out parts of our lives, we add to the busyness of them. It works against the practice of non-doing many of us aspire to. Instead, Ferguson suggests a Welcoming Exercise in which life is engaged but not by way of our ideas, goals, and tasks. Using the ancient tale of the oxherding story, he moves us from an intellectual practice to one of discovery. What is it that makes us steer or push the ox? Ultimately this work is a lesson in freedom.”
Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, Zen priest and author of Opening to Darkness, Shamanic Bones of Zen, Deepest Peace, and The Way of Tenderness

“After a long, often painful search, Siddhartha Gautama had a series of insights that came to be called ‘enlightenment,’ just as he came to be called the Buddha. He taught these insights and demonstrated them in the conduct of his life every day for forty-five years. His students and companions did the same. Because people found this helpful and true, it has continued into the present—having insights and trying to live them—developing through centuries into local, regional, and national styles. So many teachings! So many traditions! Comments upon commentaries. No one navigates this better than Gaylon Ferguson, who pilots readers back to the origin and shows each of us how to get there. Many bows to this skillful teacher!”
Tensho David Schneider, author of Street Zen and Crowded by Beauty and coeditor of Essential Zen

“Gaylon Ferguson’s new book is an inviting and rich discussion of the Buddhist path, structured around the traditional series of Zen oxherding pictures. Ferguson distills mindfulness practice to its essence—welcoming and noticing—and by means of simple contemplative exercises gently guides the reader to join him in discovering within the heart the footprints of the Buddha.”
Judith L. Lief, editor of The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma volumes and author of Making Friends with Death

“This insightful and kindhearted book is an important contribution to the development of American Buddhism. Gaylon Ferguson gives much-needed advice for non-doing, non-meditating, and non-becoming. We are invited to see the spiritual journey not as a project of breakthrough and self-improvement but as the manifestation of an ever-deepening process of welcoming immediate, bodyful experience.”
Zenki Christian Dillo Roshi, resident teacher at Boulder Zen Center and author of The Path of Aliveness

“A generous offering of rich reflection and easeful practice, this book invites us to enter into intimate exchange and to inhabit the spacious meadow that is the direct experience of our true nature.”
Lion’s Roar

Product Details
ISBN: 9781645471936
ISBN-10: 1645471934
Publisher: Shambhala
Publication Date: March 26th, 2024
Pages: 248
Language: English