Python Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Ivan Van Laningham

The practice of Zen mind is beginner’s mind. The innocence of the first inquiry“what am I?”is needed throughout Zen practice. The mind of the beginner is empty, free of the habits of the expert, ready to accept, to doubt, and open to all the possibilities. It is the kind of mind which can see things as they are, which step by step and in a flash can realize the original nature of everything. This practice of Zen mind is found throughout the book. Directly or sometimes by inference, every section of the book concerns the question of how to maintain this attitude through your meditation and in your life. This is an ancient way of teaching, using the simplest language and the situations of everyday life. This means the student should teach himself.

—Richard Baker, Introduction to Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Welcome to the Web site for Teach Yourself Python in 24 Hours.

From the Introduction:

This book’s primary aim is to teach you how to program. Only secondarily does it aim to teach you Python, perhaps the coolest programming language on the planet. You don’t need to know any programming before you begin; all you need is the desire to learn. If you have a computer and a connection to the internet, you can get Python for free: see Hour 1 for details on how to obtain and install it. Python runs on more different kinds of operating systems than any other programming language, so you should be able to find a version to fit yours; Windows, Unix, Amiga and Macintosh will all run Python just fine.

If you have never programmed before, you have a distinct advantage. Many people come to Python only after having spent years learning the arcane complexities of other, more difficult, programming languages, and they must begin by forgetting as much as they can about those other languages. You, on the other hand, don’t have any preconceptions to overcome, and thus you have what is called, in Zen, “Beginner’s Mind.” People who have studied Zen for years purposely cultivate this state. In essence, every time they come to practice, or meditate, they strive to refrain from bringing what they already know to their practice. For they know that nothing prevents the learning of new things more than the knowledge of what has been learned. The aim of practice is to learn new things, or to see old things in a new way. Writers know this too. Just because you wrote a book once doesn’t mean you know how to write a book; every book is different, every book, and every program, demands new thoughts, sometimes new approaches. If you have no approaches to discard, there are no approaches to block your learning. And sometimes you need approaches at right angles to every other approach you’ve ever tried.

Don’t let the Zen scare you off, though. While Zen attitudes inform the book, you won’t have to sit on funny cushions and endure painful cross-legged meditation sessions in order to learn how to program; what it does mean is that you should strive to forget your ordinary, day-to-day cares.  Concentrate on practicing Python, not on understanding it, and simply aim as best you can to hit each day’s target. Don’t think about tomorrow’s lesson or lessons, think about today’s. This may seem like very elementary advice, so elementary that it doesn’t need to be said; but you would be surprised at how many people attempt programming, and fail because they’re too busy thinking about what they’re going to do with programming once they learn it, how much money they’re going to make or what big problems they’re going to solve.

Click on the chapter icons below to visit the web page for each hour, where you will find links to other pages mentioned in the text, and where you can download zip archive files containing all you need to run the example programs in that chapter.  In addition, each chapter shows, full-size, the images that were reproduced too small to read in the book.  A package of all the images can be downloaded by clicking on the appropriate link at the top of this page.

The Chapters
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Appendices and Other Matter
Appendix A
Appendix A
Appendix A
Appendix B
Appendix A
Appendix C
Appendix A
Appendix D
Appendix E
Appendix E
Advance Praise
Advance Praise!
Canvas Demo Documentation
CanvasDemo Documentation
The Ad for Teach Yourself Python in 24 Hours
The Python Way
The Python Way (Tao te Python)
Light Years and Julian Years
Light Years and Julian Years
The Little Python that Could
Home page for Python
About Mayan Numbers
About the Mayan Number Glyphs
The Mayan Calendar
About the Mayan Calendar
Download all the programs and images
Snake, or Python, Chinese characterReturn here by clicking this character from any other page in the TYPython site.

A thousand years ago, the Mayans who built a great civilization in the jungles of Central America believed that mistakes in calendrical calculations were the fault not of the scribes or the astronomers, but were the result of direct intervention by the gods.  I believe this too.  If you find any errors in this book, please notify gods A through Z of the Mayan pantheon.  Visit them at The Mayan Gods, or report to them directly at

Animated Python Powered logo (old) Animated Python Powered Little Python that Could

A note on the background image.  The calligraphy was done especially for the book by my friend, Xuhua (Howard) Lin.  It reads (loosely translated), “Python Mind, Beginner’s Mind.”  It is used here, on all the pages in the TYPython directory, and in the book, with Xuhua’s permission.  The image is copyright © 2000 by Xuhua (Howard) Lin.

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