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

“It’s better to become Christ than to visit him”

This is what Neem Karoli Baba told Ram Dass about psychedelics:

“These medicines will allow you to come and visit Christ, but you can only stay two hours. Then you have to leave again. This is not the true Samadhi. It’s better to become Christ than to visit him – but even the visit of a saint for a moment is useful. But love is the most powerful medicine.”

A Long, Strange Trip – Psychedelics and Loving Awareness

Single Minded Way

From Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki

Single-Minded Way

The purpose of my talk is not to give you some intellectual understanding, but just to express my appreciation of our Zen practice. To be able to sit with you in zazen is very, very unusual. Of course, whatever we do is unusual, because our life itself is so unusual. Buddha said, “To appreciate your human life is as rare as soil on your fingernail.” You know, dirt hardly ever sticks on your nail. Our human life is rare and wonderful; when I sit I want to remain sitting forever, but I encourage myself to have another practice, for instance to recite the sutra, or to bow. And when I bow, I think, “This is wonderful.” But I have to change my practice again to recite the sutra. So the purpose of my talk is to express my appreciation, that is all. Our way is not to sit to acquire something; it is to express our true nature. That is our practice.

If you want to express yourself, your true nature, there should be some natural and appropriate way of expression. Even swaying right and left as you sit down or get up from zazen is an expression of yourself. It is not preparation for practice, or relaxation after practice; it is part of the practice. So we should not do it as if it were preparing for something else. This should be true in your everyday life. To cook, or to fix some food, is not preparation, according to Dogen; it is practice. To cook is not just to prepare food for someone or for yourself; it is to express your sincerity. So when you cook you should express yourself in your activity in the kitchen. You should allow yourself plenty of time; you should work on it with nothing in your mind, and without expecting anything. You should just cook! That is also an expression of our sincerity, a part of our practice. It is necessary to sit in zazen, in this way, but sitting is not our only way. Whatever you do, it should be an expression of the same deep activity. We should appreciate what we are doing. There is no preparation for something else.

The Bodhisattva’s way is called “the single-minded way,” or “one railway track thousands of miles long.” The railway track is always the same. If it were to become wider or narrower, it would be disastrous. Wherever you go, the railway track is always the same. That is the Bodhisattva’s way. So even if the sun were to rise from the west, the Bodhisattva has only one way. His way is in each moment to express his nature and his sincerity.

We say railway track, but actually there is no such thing. Sincerity itself is the railway track. The sights we see from the train will change, but we are always running on the same track. And there is no beginning or end to the track: beginningless and endless track. There is no starting point nor goal, nothing to attain. Just to run on the track is our way. This is the nature of our Zen practice.

But when you become curious about the railway track, danger is there. You should not see the railway track. If you look at the track you will become dizzy. Just appreciate the sights you see from the train. That is our way. There is no need for the passengers to be curious about the track. Someone will take care of it; Buddha will take care of it. But sometimes we try to explain the railway track because we become curious if something is always the same. We wonder, “How is it possible for the Bodhisattva always to be the same? What is his secret?” But there is no secret.
Everyone has the same nature as the railway track.

There were two good friends, Chokei and Hofuku. They were talking about the Bodhisattva’s way, and Chokei said, “Even if the arhat (an enlightened one) were to have evil desires, still the Tathagata (Buddha) does not have two kinds of words. I say that the Tathagata has words, but no dualistic words.” Hofuku said, “Even though you say so, your com- ment is not perfect.” Chokei asked, “What is your understanding of the Tathagata’s words?” Hofuku said, “We have had enough discussion, so let’s have a cup of tea!” Hofuku did not give his friend an answer, because it is impossible to give a verbal interpretation of our way. Nevertheless, as a part of their practice these two good friends discussed the Bodhisattva’s way, even though they did not expect to find a new interpretation. So Hofuku answered, “Our discussion is over. Let’s have a cup of tea!”

That is a very good answer, isn’t it? It is the same for my talk — when my talk is over, your listening is over. There is no need to remember what I say; there is no need to understand what I say. You understand; you have full understanding within yourself. There is no problem.