Letting go is a painful part of life. But according to Buddhism, we must let go of attachment and desires if we are to experience happiness.
However, letting go doesn’t mean you don’t care about anyone and anything. It actually means you can experience life and love fully and openly without clinging to it for your survival.
According to Buddhism, this is the only way to experience true freedom and happiness.
So below, we’ve found 25 beautiful quotes from Zen masters that explain what letting go really entails. Get ready for some liberating Zen quotes that will blow your mind.
25 profound quotes by Zen Buddhist masters
1) “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.” — Thich Nhat Hanh,
2) “Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.” — Dalai Lama
3) “You can only lose what you cling to.” — Buddha
4) “Nirvana means to extinguish the burning fires of the Three Poisons: greed, anger, and ignorance. This can be accomplished by letting go of dissatisfaction.” — Shinjo Ito
5) “The greatest loss of time is delay and expectation, which depend upon the future. We let go the present, which we have in our power, and look forward to that which depends upon chance, and so relinquish a certainty for an uncertainty.” — Seneca
Breath by breath, let go of fear, expectation and anger
6) “Breath by breath, let go of fear, expectation, anger, regret, cravings, frustration, fatigue. Let go of the need for approval. Let go of old judgments and opinions. Die to all that, and fly free. Soar in the freedom of desirelessness.” — Lama Surya Das
7) “Let go. Let Be. See through everything and be free, complete, luminous, at home — at ease.” — Lama Surya Das
8) “It is only when we begin to relax with ourselves that meditation becomes a transformative process. Only when we relate with ourselves without moralizing, without harshness, without deception, can we let go of harmful patterns. Without maitri (metta), renunciation of old habits becomes abusive. This is an important point.” — Pema Chödrön
When you solidify your expectations, you get frustrated
9) “Patience from a Buddhist perspective is not a ‘wait and see’ attitude, but rather one of ‘just be there’… Patience can also be based on not expecting anything.Think of patience as an act of being open to whatever comes your way. When you begin to solidify expectations, you get frustrated because they are not met in the way you had hoped… With no set idea of how something is supposed to be, it is hard to get stuck on things not happening in the time frame you desired. Instead, you are just being there, open to the possibilities of your life.” — Lodro Rinzler
10) “Buddhism teaches that joy and happiness arise from letting go. Please sit down and take an inventory of your life. There are things you’ve been hanging on to that really are not useful and deprive you of your freedom. Find the courage to let them go.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
11) “The Buddha’s principal message that day was that holding on to anything blocks wisdom. Any conclusion that we draw must be let go. The only way to fully understand the bodhichitta teachings, the only way to practice them fully, is to abide in the unconditional openness of the prajna, patiently cutting through all our tendencies to hang on.” — Pema Chödrön
12) “Whether we like it or not, change comes, and the greater the resistance, the greater the pain. Buddhism perceives the beauty of change, for life is like music in this: if any note or phrase is held for longer than its appointed time, the melody is lost. Thus Buddhism may be summed up in two phrases: “Let go!” and “Walk on!” Drop the craving for self, for permanence, for particular circumstances, and go straight ahead with the movement of life.” — Alan W. Watts
Letting go takes a lot of courage
13) “Letting go takes a lot of courage sometimes. But once you let go, happiness comes very quickly. You won’t have to go around search for it.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
14) “Bhikkhus, the teaching is merely a vehicle to describe the truth. Don’t mistake it for the truth itself. A finger pointing at the moon is not the moon. The finger is needed to know where to look for the moon, but if you mistake the finger for the moon itself, you will never know the real moon. The teaching is like a raft that carries you to the other shore. The raft is needed, but the raft is not the other shore. An intelligent person would not carry the raft around on his head after making it across to the other shore. Bhikkhus, my teaching is the raft which can help you cross to the other shore beyond birth and death. Use the raft to cross to the other shore, but don’t hang onto it as your property. Do not become caught in the teaching. You must be able to let it go.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
If you want more from Thich Nhat Hanh, his book, Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm is highly recommended.
15) “One of the key paradoxes in Buddhism is that we need goals to be inspired, to grow, and to develop, even to become enlightened, but at the same time we must not get overly fixated or attached to these aspirations. If the goal is noble, your commitment to the goal should not be contingent on your ability to attain it, and in pursuit of our goal, we must release our rigid assumptions about how we must achieve it. Peace and equanimity come from letting go of our attachment to the goal and the method. That is the essence of acceptance. Reflecting” — Dalai Lama
16) ““The art of living… is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging to the past on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.” — Alan Watts
For more quotes by Alan Watts, check out our article 25 of the most mind opening quotes from Alan Watts
17) “The intuitive recognition of the instant, thus reality… is the highest act of wisdom.” — D.T. Suzuki
18) “Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
19) “Heaven and earth and I are of the same root, The ten-thousand things and I are of one substance.” — Seng-chao
Forgetting the self
20) “The practice of Zen is forgetting the self in the act of uniting with something.” — Koun Yamada
21) “To study Buddhism is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be awakened by all things.” — Dogi
22) “To accept some idea of truth without experiencing it is like a painting of a cake on paper which you cannot eat.” — Suzuki Rosh
23) “Zen has no business with ideas.” — D.T. Suzuki
24) “Today, you can decide to walk in freedom. You can choose to walk differently. You can walk as a free person, enjoying every step.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
25) “When an ordinary man attains knowledge, he is a sage; when a sage attains understanding, he is an ordinary man.” — Zen proverb