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.
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.
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.
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.”
May all beings be happy.
Gaze upon this image for an extended period of time, whilst listening to this music.
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