Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance | Study Guide

Robert Pirsig

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Course Hero. "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Study Guide." September 20, 2017. Accessed December 18, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Zen-and-the-Art-of-Motorcycle-Maintenance/.


Course Hero, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Study Guide," September 20, 2017, accessed December 18, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Zen-and-the-Art-of-Motorcycle-Maintenance/.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance | Quotes


'Go away, I'm looking for the truth,' and so it goes away. Puzzling.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 1

The narrator uses his motorcycle trips to "get away." Yet for too long, he travels on highways and in metropolitan areas, as if his destination is more important than the journey itself. Eventually it dawns on him that leaving the highway for back roads and small towns is a more fulfilling way to travel.


The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in ... the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of a mountain.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 1

The narrator wonders why so many people shun technology and machines as being dull, too complicated, and ugly. In his view, machines are part of people's lives; why ignore them? Instead, people should see that machines have an intrinsic beauty and that accepting and understanding them brings more peace into people's lives, not less.


No manual ... deals with the real business of motorcycle maintenance, the most important aspect.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 2

Being mindful and attending to what one is doing is the most important aspect of any activity, but people tend to ignore its value, focusing instead on the end result. A manual can't teach this truth; immersing oneself in the work is the only way to learn its importance.


The whole blessed thing is a human invention, including the idea that ... [the laws of nature aren't] a human invention.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 4

When the narrator's friends hear this, they're understandably puzzled. He elaborates, explaining that natural phenomena acquire the patina of fixed, objective reality once they receive labels and definitions. Like ghosts—an obvious human invention—natural phenomena only come to seem real when their meaning has been codified in language or mathematical equations.


If ... you tell him he's ungrateful, ... you've called him a name. You haven't solved anything.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 4

After an unpleasant exchange with his friends, the narrator is reminding himself that defining why they've annoyed him is a "blind alley" that cannot result in any meaningful personal change.


He used the knife because that was the only tool he had.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 6

The narrator is speaking of Phaedrus here. As his mental breakdown began, Phaedrus tried to understand his situation by examining it philosophically, using an imaginary knife to pare away the illogical parts of his thinking. It didn't work, because looking at an intractable problem from only one vantage point is not helpful.


Holy wars are not fought over them.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 12

This is one of the lessons Phaedrus learned while studying Asian religions in India. Doctrinal differences among Eastern religions are not important. The reason these religions don't trigger holy wars is that they all start from the premise that what people perceive as objective reality is an illusion.


The machine ... out there and the person ... in here are not two separate things.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 15

Fixing a motorcycle isn't separate from the rest of experience. If a person repairs a machine but doesn't repair other broken aspects of their life, there has been no real improvement.


If your mind is truly, profoundly stuck, then it might be much better off than when it was loaded with ideas.

Narrator, Part 3, Chapter 24

Feeling stuck can be a blessing. It always precedes real understanding. According to Zen principles, an empty mind may lead to enlightenment.


We just have to keep going until we find out what's wrong or find out why we don't know what's wrong.

Narrator, Part 3, Chapter 24

Chris is beginning to hate this trip and wants the narrator to fix things for him. But his father can't offer an easy fix; they need insight before they can solve the problems.


How do you know what it [Quality] is, or how do you know ... it even exists?

Narrator, Part 3, Chapter 25

This quotation asks the question: How should people think about abstractions? Phaedrus believes if Quality can't be properly defined, it must not exist—yet everyone has an intuitive sense of what Quality is.


You're so sure you'll do everything wrong you're afraid to do anything at all.

Narrator, Part 3, Chapter 25

Gumption traps—incidents or mindsets that cause demotivation—get in the way of accomplishment, and anxiety is one of these traps. Being anxious prevents a person from trying anything because of the fear and worry it will go wrong.


What he's looking for ... is all around him, but he doesn't want that because it is all around him.

Narrator, Part 3, Chapter 26

If people try to accomplish something because it will feed the ego, they'll never feel as if they're getting anywhere. An ego-driven mind looks for rewards from the external world instead of cultivating satisfaction from within.


Peace of mind isn't at all superficial to technical work. It's the whole thing.

Narrator, Part 4, Chapter 28

A true understanding of Quality requires that the person cultivate inner peace. Only then will they feel at one with whatever task is being performed.


Be one person again!

Narrator, Part 4, Chapter 32

This is the narrator's advice to himself as he tries to relieve Chris of his emotional burden. He has accepted the fact that he and Phaedrus are one and the same. From this point on, the future for father and son seems more hopeful.

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