What is “I”?

What is this thing that I call, “I”.  What is it really? We think we know who we are—we have stories about ourselves. But what is it really?  We have our own limited human perception of things, and that's good, that helps us somewhat. But it's not the truth.

We create stories and ideas then we believe them and we get farther and farther away from the experience of the moment. This question, “What am I? What is this?”, brings us back to the moment. If we can stop the story for a moment, then we can actually experience, “What is this?”  

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

What is “I”?

What is this thing that I call, “I”.  What is it really? We think we know who we are—we have stories about ourselves. But what is it really?  We have our own limited human perception of things, and that's good, that helps us somewhat. But it's not the truth. We create stories and ideas then we believe them and we get farther and farther away from the experience of the moment. 

This question, “What am I? What is this?”, brings us back to the moment. If we can stop the story for a moment, then we can actually experience, “What is this?"  But as the story is just running, we're just believing the old stories again and again and again.

 

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

When The Dream Disappears

So we all have these dreams. We have the dreams of our likes, our dislikes, this story that we weave about ourselves. We carry this story of ourselves, but the story is not true. It’s factually not correct. We embellish, we make it up as we go along and then we protect it. "I am this."  "I don’t like that."  "I want this." This is our dream. So the Buddha taught in the Diamond Sutra that our life is like a dream, like a phantom, like a bubble. Appearing and disappearing. What is it? If it’s not our dream, then what is it? That’s the realm of our Zen practice. 

Zen isn’t concerned very much about form. It’s not really concerned very much about ritual. It’s really not a religion. It doesn’t care about having some mystical experience. It’s not about getting a particular state of mind. It’s asking the question, What am I?  What is this?  Don’t-Know. Because if we don’t know, then the dream disappears. The dream is everything we know, everything we believe, the whole story we have about ourselves. But if we enter into not knowing, where is the dream then?  If I don’t know, then what? That’s the point of Zen practice.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Defending the Story

That’s human mind. We attach to things, we like something, we don’t like something else. We jump from being happy and loving to being angry and sad. We’re on this roller coaster of good and bad, right and wrong, what we like and what we don’t like. We chase after what we want, we reject what we don’t want and we create an idea, a theory, a story to justify it. And then we’ll defend that story almost with our life, sometimes literally with our life. What is it that we’re defending? We’re defending a fantasy. 

The simple practices are about being able in the moment to make the choices available to us. If we’re not awake our karmic tendencies, our habitual patterns, rule the show. I’m not making this up, watch your own life. We just keep redoing the same stupid action over and over again. And then we wonder why we suffer so much. But if we can be awake in this moment, it’s possible not to allow that conditioned reaction to overtake us. It’s possible to do something different. That’s what we do in a Zen center. That’s what Zen centers are about. It may look formal, it may look like “why do they do all these crazy things”? We do these "crazy things " is just to be be alive in the moment that we’re in. Then when suffering appears in front of us, we can lend a hand.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng