teisho 707 (2000)
Everything is an opportunity for practice. Everything is an expression of the Dharma. Dogen.
You can find what you have lost, but you cannot find what you have not lost. Nisargadatta.
The question ‘Who am I?’ has an implication in its very structure that there is something to be known, to be found. This question is posed in order that eventually you will come to recognize that there is not something that has to be found, to be known, reached or grasped. This is not an ordinary question. An ordinary question comes from the feeling ‘I don’t know’, ‘I need to find out.’ The question ‘Who am I?’ is put to you in order that you can see that from the beginning knowing is your true nature. Waking up is letting go of the belief that there is something to wake up to. There is nothing to wake up to. Awakening is not a gain, it is not an achievement, it is not something you are adding, it is something you are letting go of, something you are releasing. It is letting go of the belief that something more is necessary.
When Buddha said, ‘Life is suffering’, he could equally as well have said, ‘Life is unsatisfactory.’ It is this fundamental dissatisfaction that must be addressed. It isn’t a particular situation that is at issue, it is the attitude towards situations, which comes from this fundamental dissatisfaction. When we say this attitude needs to be addressed, we are not talking about positive thinking. It is shifting the wavelength from the vehicle that carries the dissatisfaction to the dissatisfaction itself. If one works with this the dissatisfaction turns into a longing, a yearning, which comes from an illusion of separation. To search for oneness, for unity, simply holds this separation in suspension.
The problem is yearning for wholeness, a wholeness that we believe we have lost. When asking the question ‘who am I?’ one must come home to the immediacy of the moment, of what you are right now. See it in its confusion, see its unsatisfactory nature, see its pain, see it for what it is. And then, see the underlying longing, yearning and be one with that. Then when you are asking ‘who am I?’, you are asking ‘what is the source of this yearning?’ The source is not something separate, the yearning is already the source. It is letting go of what you are taking for granted, that the source is something separate. When you ask ‘who am I?’ what answer are you expecting to find?
True knowledge of the self is not knowledge. It is not something you can find by searching. True knowledge of the self can only come when we have extracted or withdrawn the self from all knowledge. It is only possible when we are able to discern the seeing from what is being seen., the hearing from what is being heard. What is this discernment? It is not separation. It is not an analysis. What is this discernment? When you look at a picture, you see the picture, but you discern the canvas. When you look at your reflection in a mirror, you see the reflection but you discern the mirror. The question ‘who am I?’ is a question designed to awaken discernment. It is designed to awaken Prajna. Prajna is an aroused mind, a mind that is not resting on anything. When the mind is not aroused, you hear the rain, and all there is for you is the sound of rain. You are not aware of the hearing. When the mind is aroused, it is no longer just the sound of rain.
The self is not to be found in space or time. Knowledge is but a memory, a pattern of thought, a mental habit, and these are motivated by pleasure and pain. You are in search of knowledge because you are motivated by pleasure and pain. One is looking for what is good, what is right, what is true, what is real, what is comfortable, what is acceptable. There is always a need for a certain kind of experience and a rejection of another kind of experience. A rejection of the ugly, of the false, the dishonest, the uncomfortable, the rough, the crude. We are constantly trying to smooth out, to justify, to rationalize. And when we cannot do this we imagine, dream, hope, wish, all ways by which we search for pleasure. We want everything to be nice: the weather, the food, people. Being oneself is completely beyond all motivation. You cannot be yourself for a reason. You are yourself, no reason is needed. Throughout life we are trying to control the situation. Come home, put it all down, don’t have a reason for being, there is none; then everything is light and peace, joy and freedom. Our dancing and songs are the voice of the Dharma.