What am I?

teisho 1234 (2013)

‘I am’ and the question ‘what am I?’ are fundamental. Our very life is a question. There is this constant onward thrust;  life is not static, needing to be put into action by outside forces. All life is inherently active, dynamic.

This dynamism constantly assumes a form: as a flower, a fish, a bird.   In a human being it takes the form of words, thoughts.  When a person asks “what am I?” they look to the words, they look for the meaning of the words.  They look for the meaning of the words “I am.”  But words do not have meaning, meaning has words. What meaning is there that seeks to find expression in the words “I am”?

One has to look at being itself.  What does it mean to be?  This is a special kind of question, because as long as you stay at the level of words or thoughts, concepts or feeling, it is not going to get you very far. Being itself will constantly escape you, because you cannot stand outside being and look at it.

One needs to come home to the truth ‘I am’.  When you do, you do not come to something, to some separate, isolated, unique and different form. The only answer is ‘I am the world.’  The realized person thinks, acts and feels together, not in a dislocated and fractured way.   When Buddha said “when I was awakened, the whole world was awakened with me,” this is another way of saying “I am.”   At the beginning of his verse, Hakuin emphasizes ‘All beings are Buddha.’  All beings are this dynamic living flow.

We are not something.  We take form, but that does not mean we are something. My understanding takes form in words, but that does not mean to say my understanding is words.

There was a paper delivered by a professor at a university, in which he was criticizing the Zen tradition.  He said that Zen Budhists now devote their time to coming to some ineffable experience called Kensho.   Are we simply looking for some experience, some sort of psychological high?   The professor also said that the ethical side of Buddhism has been lost.  That the search for awakening has taken such dominance that the ethical teaching of the arousing of compassion has been lost sight of.  Is this true?

Awakening is not an ineffable experience.  If you have worked hard and long enough, there is joy upon awakening.  But that is not what it is about.  The joy goes.  It is that one now sees the world in a different way, no longer in constant opposition. One can honestly say ‘I am the world.’  Awakening is not an end, the end of work. The work continues, but in the light.

Zazen is a kind of involvement; if one’s mind tends to wander,  a zazen posture can be very helpful. But whether one sits in a special position, or whether one walks or sits in an armchair, if one is involved in this way, concerned in this way, that is zazen.

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1 Response to What am I?

  1. Marie Lloyd says:

    There is nearly always in any of these postings a phrase, a viewpoint, that gives me sudden pause.

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