Word: ShoshinA powerful state of mind—or a paradox on the path to enlightenment?

Word: ShoshinA powerful state of mind—or a paradox on the path to enlightenment?

Issue 23

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Arts & Culture

"The paradox of enlightenment is that a person cannot attain it if they seek to do so"

Etymology: A combination of two Japanese characters: sho (“initial”) and shin (“mind”).

Meaning: For Zen Buddhists, the word shoshin (which in secular parlance means “innocence” or “inexperience”) refers to a beginner’s mind—a state of openness and wonder that allows a person to approach life unfettered by the preconceptions, biases or habits associated with knowledge and experience. Maintaining this condition through practices such as meditation is an essential step toward enlightenment.

The paradox of enlightenment is that a person cannot attain it if they seek to do so. Unlike Western philosophers like Descartes and Rawls, who cleared their minds of assumptions in an explicit effort to gain deeper insight, Zen practitioners strive toward shoshin for its own sake, ...

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