Who are you?

Who are you?

What are you?

Stop. Don’t tell me your name.

Are you your name? A collection of letters or sounds? An arbitrary collection? You are that? In what language? Was it always your name? Are you a different person now? Who were you before your parents named you? Nothing?

Don’t tell me your nationality.

That’s even more arbitrary than your name.

Don’t tell me your profession. That’s as shifting as the tide. That’s what you do, sometimes. We’re not at work now. Who are you now?

Are you your body? Sure feels like it, doesn’t it? A changing, constantly regenerating mass of cells which is intimately connected with its environment? You are sure – ok, where does your body end – the skin? If you are the body where in your body are your thoughts?

Are you your memories? Are you the present moment? Are you “in there”? Are you your brain? Are you inside your brain – somewhere behind the eyes and between the ears.

Are you watching the world on a screen? Who is watching the screen? How can they watch the screen? With eyes? Is there someone behind their eyes?

Who are you?

Keep going. What’s down there?

I tell you you are none of those things. We exhaust everything. You are nothing. You retort- but I am aware of things!. I am aware of thoughts, memories, senses, my body, and all those things make up a sense of me. I feel like me. Those things feel like me.

Ok. You are aware of things. You might be the awareness? I’m struggling to take that from you.

A beat.

You are awareness. But what is awareness without something to be aware of? How can you be aware of nothing? If we have awareness we must have the ‘awareness of’.

So all the other stuff must be there, ‘in’ your awareness.

….

You never see the surface of a mirror. You see what the mirror reflects. What the mirror reflects is not the surface of the mirror. It never changes the surface of the mirror. But without the stuff to reflect, the mirror would never manifest. The mirror needs the you, but you need the mirror.

All the other stuff comes rushing back in. The dance continues. The mirror reflects.

Easy Way

There is a very easy way to be a Buddha: Do not do any evil. Do not try to cling to life and death but, with deep compassion, work for all beings. Respect your elders and sympathize with those younger. When you do neither deny things nor seek them or think and worry about them – then you are called a buddha. Don’t look for anything else.

Dōgen – Shōbōgenzō Shōji

All forgotten and set aside

From Alan Watts’ autobiography “In My Own Way”

“Meanwhile (this was when I was about seventeen), I was still reading Suzuki on Zen and trying to practice some form of Buddhist yoga, za-zen, or satipatthana – and simply couldn’t make up my mind which specific method to follow, or exactly what state of mind or consciousness was satori, samadhi, moksha, or true enlightenment. Aside from Toby, who wasn’t playing the guru role, for we were just fellow seekers, I had no spiritual master. I was a shaman, on my own in a religious jungle. When, in Canterbury, I had become the head-boy, or captain, of my house, The Grange, I had the privilege of going off by myself to study and meditate in an ancient Elizabethan room, where one could light a fire and stay up until late at night. It was in the autumn of 1932 – windy, with fallen leaves skittering along roads and fields – and I was trying desperately to work out this problem: What is THE EXPERIENCE which these Oriental masters are talking about? The different ideas of it which I had in mind seemed to be approaching me like little dogs wanting to be petted, and suddenly I shouted at all of them to go away. I annihilated and bawled out every theory and concept of what should be my properly spiritual state of mind, or of what should be meant by ME. And instantly my weight vanished. I owned nothing. All hang-ups disappeared. I walked on air. Thereupon I composed a haiku:

All forgotten and set aside –
Wind scattering leaves
Over the fields.”

You have to sit in the very bonfire of that distress

You have to dive into it. Same way as in Zazen, things arise that are very very disturbing and there’s no way around it. There’s no way over it, there’s no way under it. There’s no way to the side of it. There’s no way of forgetting it. You have to sit in the very bonfire of that distress, and you sit there until you’re burnt away. And it’s ashes, and it’s gone.

– Leonard Cohen

Moment after moment we have to find our own way.

As long as we have some definite idea about or some hope in the future, we cannot really be serious with the moment that exists right now. You may say, “I can do it tomorrow, or next year,” believing that something that exists today will exist tomorrow. Even though you are not trying so hard, you expect that some promising thing will come, as long as you follow a certain way. But there is no certain way that exists permanently. There is no way set up for us. Moment after moment we have to find our own way. Some idea of perfection, or some perfect way which is set up by someone else, is not the true way for us.

Each one of us must make his own true way, and when we do, that way will express the universal way. This is the mystery. When you understand one thing through and through, you understand everything. When you try to understand everything, you will not understand anything. The best way is to understand yourself, and then you will understand everything. So when you try hard to make your own way, you will help others, and you will be helped by others. Before you make your own way you cannot help anyone, and no one can help you. To be independent in this true sense, we have to forget everything which we have in our mind and discover something quite new and different moment after moment. This is how we live in this world.

Shunryu Suzuki – Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind