About the book


A fictionalised autobiographical travel book on the 17-day motorcycle journey from Minnesota to Northern California, undertaken by Pirsig and his son, Chris.  Goodreads

Year published: 1974

Buy book:  Amazon

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Quotes from the book

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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Robert M. Pirsig)

Find peace in your heart, first and foremost.

  • The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.
  • Peace of mind produces right values, right values produce right thoughts. Right thoughts produce right actions and right actions produce work which will be a material reflection for others to see of the serenity at the centre of it all.
  • The way to see what looks good and understand the reasons it looks good, and to be at one with this goodness as the work proceeds, is to cultivate an inner quietness, a peace of mind so that goodness can shine through.
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Do everything with a sense of care and quality.

  • Care and Quality are internal and external aspects of the same thing. A person who sees Quality and feels it as he works is a person who cares. A person who cares about what he sees and does is a person who’s bound to have some characteristics of Quality.
  • To an experienced Zen Buddhist, asking if one believes in Zen or one believes in the Buddha, sounds a little ludicrous, like asking if one believes in air or water. Similarly, Quality is not something you believe in, Quality is something you experience.
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Seek the truth – religion is not necessarily the answer.

  • When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called a Religion.
  • You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it’s going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it’s always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.
  • The truth knocks on the door and you say, ‘Go away, I’m looking for the truth’, and so it goes away. Puzzling.
  • The real purpose of the scientific method is to make sure nature hasn’t misled you into thinking you know something you actually don’t know.
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Slow down and take your time – there’s no rush.

  • We’re in such a hurry most of the time we never get much chance to talk. The result is a kind of endless day-to-day shallowness, a monotony that leaves a person wondering years later where all the time went and sorry that it’s all gone.
  • 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.
  • Sometimes it’s a little better to travel than to arrive
  • To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow.
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Be wary of the assumption that the purpose of life is to stay alive.

  • It was the ghost of rationality itself … This is the ghost of normal everyday assumptions which declares that the ultimate purpose of life, which is to keep alive, is impossible, but that this is the ultimate purpose of life anyway, so that great minds struggle to cure diseases so that people may live longer, but only madmen ask why. One lives longer in order that he may live longer. There is no other purpose. That is what the ghost says.
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Instead, find your Zen, and your true purpose.

  • The only Zen you can find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there.
  • The solutions all are simple – after you have arrived at them. But they’re simple only when you know already what they are.
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