Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


This was a tough book. It started easy, and I almost thought it was another easy travel book with SOME philosophical inquiries. Then, philosophy took it over. Completely…

I had to read slowly, take break often for some contemplation, and be patient. I finished, but not sure I really understood. Probably I need to revisit someday.

Still, I will say this is one of a kind. Full of inspirations for further thoughts.


“What’s new?” is an interesting and broadening eternal question, but one which, if pursued exclusively, results only in an endless parade of trivia and fashion, the silt of tomorrow. I would like, instead, to be concerned with the question “What is best?,” a question which cuts deeply rather than broadly, a question whose answers tend to move the silt downstream.

In our time when “What’s new?” is waiting for us every 10 minutes (or any other time you set for refreshing your news feeds on your smartphone!), it is especially true.


I argued that physical discomfort is important only when the mood is wrong. Then you fasten on to whatever thing is uncomfortable and call that the cause. But if the mood is right, then physical discomfort doesn’t mean much.

It is possible to “reduce” your physical discomfort. Oh, by the way, when you are in the right mood, dirty crowded hostel rooms aren’t that bad…


I don’t want to hurry it. That itself is a poisonous twentieth-century attitude. When you want to hurry something, that means you no longer care about it and want to get on to other things.

It was as if the author was telling us not to give up this book. I was a little in hurry trying to finish this book, so that I can get on to next book.


It was at a level at which everything shifts and changes, at which institutional values and verities are gone and there is nothing but one’s own spirit to keep one going.

This is really for us living second decade of 21 century. When you feel like everything around you breaking down, you only got yourself to keep going.


You look at where you’re going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge. And if you project forward from that pattern, then sometimes you can come up with something.

I wonder if Steve Jobs read this book..? Probably he did, huh? (Remember that part of his famous commencement speech about “connecting the dots?”)


School teach you to imitate. If you don’t imitate what the teacher wants you get a bad grade. Here, in college, it was more sophisticated, of course; you were supposed to imitate the teacher in such a way as to convince the teacher you were not imitating, but taking the essence of the instruction and going ahead with it on your own. That got you A’s. Originality on the other hand could get you anything—from A to F. The whole grading system cautioned against it.

I believe there are no educational system exists that can teach real Originality (with capital “O”). It should come natural. For every other originality, as my university professor taught me years ago, you need to learn to Copy And Steal Everything (CASE).


Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you’re no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn’t just a means to an end but a unique event in itself.

This is very similar to what Leo Babauta was talking about having no goal. Maybe he got inspiration from this book too. Who knows?

By the way, this is very practical tip for long hiking/walking too. I always forget about this, and constantly keep wondering how more I have to walk. Sometimes I do remember, and start commenting how nice the view is, and take more rests, enjoy every bit of the walk. That’s when I really feel like I had a great walk.


Programs of a political nature are important end products of social quality that can be effective only if the underlying structure of social values is right. The social values are right only if the individual values are right. The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.

I believe this sentence is 100% correct.

The biggest challenge of our generation might be finding the right value. And naively, I believe Japan can be the first nation to seek new value in 21 century, after what happened last March.

We will need more teachers, but first, we got to set the value right. Changing the system can come later. Yes, I believe we are doing it all backwards…


Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
Robert M. Pirsig
HarperTorch 2006-04-25
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