50 Zen Quotes on Living a Good Life

In studying Zen for the past couple years, I’ve come across some amazing quotes on reducing stress, finding purpose, and achieving happiness. Zen is a school of Buddhism with teachings such as:

  • Meditating, observing your mind, and focusing on your breath to achieve presence and self-control
  • Accepting life as it is and finding happiness from within
  • Letting go of judgment and your notions of good and bad

zen quotes

I do have some small criticisms of Zen. Some texts contain metaphysical stories, and at times it seems like a nihilistic philosophy that could lead to complacency or a lack of motivation. However, I’ve found Zen helpful for reducing stress and achieving presence, focus, and contentment when I need it. And in that state of mind, I find myself with positive energy and a healthy motivation to pursue ventures that are in line with my values.

This article includes my 50 favorite zen quotes. Most of the quotes are attributed to people who would consider themselves well aligned with Zen Buddhist philosophy. A few of the quotes are attributed to people who probably wouldn’t consider themselves Zen Buddhists, but I found the quote to be well aligned with the philosophy and helpful for living a good life, so I included them.

Zen Quotes On Success and Happiness

“Stop trying to leave, and you will arrive.” — Lao Tzu

“Chasing pleasure brings pleasure. But it does not bring satisfaction. In fact, it is precisely because it does not bring satisfaction that one must keep chasing it.” — Kapil Gupta

“The Life you await never comes. It never comes because it doesn’t exist. The beautiful one is an imagination. The tumultuous one is the reality. Peace comes from seeing life’s teeth. Knowing that its smiles will never free you.” — Kapil Gupta

“Life is not about happiness or success. It is just about.” — Charlie Ambler

“The good life can be as simple as just paying attention.” — Charlie Ambler

“If there is an ascension, it comes from not caring about the ascendence.” — Charlie Ambler

“Success should be an accidental reward for you finding fulfillment in life as it is rather than chasing it and then realizing that doesn’t fill the void and then being successful and unhappy.” — Charlie Ambler

“If you see Nirvana as somewhere outside the mind, you’re deluding yourself.” — Bodhidharma

“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

“The more you chase, the less you have.” — Charlie Ambler

“Life is good when we stop trying to force it to be a certain way.” — Charlie Ambler

“The only Zen you can find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there.” — Robert M. Pirsig

“I had to strive for property and experience nausea and the depths of despair in order to learn not resist them, in order to learn to love the world, and no longer compare it with some kind of desired imaginary world, some imaginary vision of perfection, but to leave it as it is, to love it and be glad to belong to it.” — Hermann Hesse

“What you are looking for is already in you…You already are everything you are seeking.” — Thich Nhat Hanh

“Nothing can give you joy. Joy is uncaused and arises from within as the joy of Being.” — Eckhardt Tolle

“I don’t have a preconception of a perfect day because if I did then it would ruin the day that I was living.” — Naval Ravikant

“The fundamental delusion – there is something out there that will make me happy and fulfilled forever.” — Naval Ravikant

“Whenever we’re envious we’re wrong because the things that other people have don’t make them happy. They make themselves happy.” — Charlie Ambler

“You get there by realizing you are already there.” — Eckhart Tolle

“When you accept what is, every moment is the best moment. That is enlightenment.” — Eckhardt Tolle

“Desire is a contract that you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.” — Naval Ravikant


Zen Quotes On Life’s Purpose

“Life has no purpose. A thing that is finite cannot have a purpose. Purpose is like paint on a cement wall. It is an intellectualization. It is a forced adornment. You live. And you will die. What purpose is there in that? Then why do anything at all? To pass the time in a beautiful way.” — Kapil Gupta

Life is the purpose.” – Osho

“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

“Once you realize that the road is the goal and that you are always on the road, not to reach a goal, but to enjoy its beauty and its wisdom, life ceases to be a task and becomes natural and simple, in itself an ecstasy.” — Nisargadatta Maharaj

Zen Quotes On Anxiety and Adversity

Stress is caused by being here but wanting to be there.” — Eckhart Tolle

“What is pain: Demanding something from anyone besides yourself.” — Kapil Gupta

“Worry rarely improves whatever we’re worried about.” — Charlie Ambler

“Waves of chaos of the world around us will always exist. But when we cultivate a sense of inner-peace, we stop letting them throw us around.” — Charlie Ambler

“Evading anxiety causes more anxiety.” — Charlie Ambler

“Suffering is how Life tells you that you are resisting or misperceiving what is real and true.” — Adyashanti

“Comfort and security are not part of the ultimate purpose of the universe.” — Eckhardt Tolle

“Sometime’s life’s a drag. That’s ok. Let yourself feel everything honestly and fully. Don’t deny reality.” — Eckhardt Tolle

“Life isn’t as serious as my mind makes it out to be.” — Eckhardt Tolle

“If you think the cause of your problem is ‘out there,’ you’ll try to solve it from the outside.” — Byron Katie

Zen Quotes On Acceptance

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.” — Viktor Frankl

“Not everything happens for a reason. Nature is not rational. Just make peace with whatever happens.” — Charlie Ambler

“Nature is full of chaos and conflict. Don’t resist these things. Invite them in.” — Charlie Ambler

“The way to free yourself of pain and suffering is to accept it.” — Charlie Ambler

“Forcing peace isn’t peace.” — Charlie Ambler

“If your mind were open to not believing what you think, then there is no way you could have been disappointed. When you’re less disappointed, you’re more in touch with wisdom.” — Byron Katie

“Detachment is not that you should own nothing but that nothing should own you.” — Ali ibn abi Talib

“The less you judge things, including the contents of your mind, the more clearly you’ll see them.”— Robert Wright

“Observe a person or event for a length of time, deliberately holding yourself back from forming an opinion.” — Robert Greene

Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them.” — Eckhardt Tolle

Zen Quotes On Thinking

“Mind travels. You do not have to. Mind likes and dislikes. You are free of them. Mind craves. You do not. Mind attaches. You are untethered. Mind thinks. You are thought-less. Mind wanders. You are steady. Mind identifies you. You do not exist.” — Kapil Gupta

“You give power to whatever you give your attention to. When you look within, you empower yourself.” — Charlie Ambler

“A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thoughts. So he loses touch with Reality, and lives in a world of illusion.” — Alan Watts

“Find a big question. Like ‘who am I?’ or ‘what’s life about?’ or ‘why do daffodils touch me so?’ Live with it, take it to work, eat lunch with it, rest it on your pillow at night. Whatever you do don’t answer it. For just a little while, allow life to be larger than your knowing.” — Jason Garner

“Don’t believe every thing you think.” ― Byron Katie