The self is the way we organize reality. It is mutable. Ephemeral. It’s an organizing structure that arises and is always completely embedded in relational reality. It’s never apart from that relational reality. That’s it. It’s pretty simple.
Oftentimes when people hear the teachings of no-self, they think that no self exists, or that no self should exist. But that’s not what it means. The teachings of no-self mean that we are not fixed, we are not permanent, separate, isolated. We are this dynamic reality. We are as Dōgen says: a flower of emptiness. A mutable articulation of reality.
So the teachings of no-self are not aimed at erasing ordinary personality or diminishing our worth, our needs, our vitality.
The self is not a problem to be solved or an obstacle to be obliterated. Quite the opposite. The teachings are about liberation from constricted states of suffering. Liberation from the delusions that we have about the self. They aim for our full participation, with kindness and clear thinking.
It’s also true that when we let these teachings sink in, when we allow them to touch us, they are deeply, deeply challenging. Because they ask us to risk a new way of being…
Releasing the hold on the self is a necessary and radical event that is liberating. It is also a process that leaves the practitioner to the edge of the known and beyond. The practice requires a willingness to allow everything on which one has relied and what is most intimately known — the self and one’s notions about the nature of reality — to shift and change.
If we look closely at this process, we find the ability to allow it is intimately linked with our experience of trust. And it requires an encounter with trust. Ultimately, it requires trust in life itself.“
-Rev. Dr. Daijaku Judith Kinst
SF Zen Center