Creating a Sense of Self

This week Sam led a discussion continuing on the topic of “the Deathless” from previous weeks by exploring how we create our sense of Self.

He played 3 excerpts from the talk “The sweet essence, part 2” by Patrick Kearney. The excerpts were at times 0:00-4:58, 10:52-11:58, and 24:49-33:57. He also played the first 14 minutes of the talk ”Self is an Addition to What is Already There” by Ajahn Sucitto.

Sam read parts of the following two items:

When a pot is broken, the space inside it is not, and similarly when the body dies the Self in it remains eternal. It is distinct from the causal Maya and its effects. It is pure Knowledge. It illumines Being and Non-being alike and is without attributes. It is the witness of the intellect in the waking, dream, and deep sleep states. It shines as “I-I”, as ever-present, direct experience.
It is aware of itself through its own effulgence and so is its own witness. It is single and immutable in the waking, dream, and deep sleep states. It makes itself known as Being-Consciousness-Bliss and is self-effulgent in the heart as “I-I”.
The fool takes the reflection of the sun in the water of a pot to be the sun; the wise man eliminates pot, water, and reflection and knows the sun in the sky as it really is, single and unaffected, but illuminating all three. In the same way the fool, through error and misperception, identifies himself with the ego and its reflected light experienced through the medium of the mind. The wise and discriminating man eliminates body,intellect, and reflected light of consciousness and probes deeply into his real Self which illuminates all three while remaining uniform in the ether of the heart.

— from the Vivekachudamani, by Shankara, as translated by Ramana Maharshi.

A monk asked Joshu, a Chinese Zen master: “Has a dog Buddha-nature or not?”
Joshu answered: “Mu.” [Mu is the negative symbol in Chinese, meaning “No thing” or “Nay.”]

Mumon’s comment: To realize Zen one has to pass through the barrier of the patriarchs. Enlightenment always comes after the road of thinking is blocked. If you do not pass the barrier of the patriarchs or if your thinking road is not blocked, whatever you think, whatever you do, is like a tangling ghost. You may ask: What is a barrier of a patriarch? This one word, Mu, is it.

This is the barrier of Zen. If you pass through it you will see Joshu face to face. Then you can work hand in hand with the whole line of patriarchs. Is this not a pleasant thing to do?

If you want to pass this barrier, you must work through every bone in your body, through every pore of your skin, filled with this question: What is Mu? and carry it day and night. Do not believe it is the common negative symbol meaning nothing. It is not nothingness, the opposite of existence. If you really want to pass this barrier, you should feel like drinking a hot iron ball that you can neither swallow nor spit out.
Then your previous lesser knowledge disappears. As a fruit ripening in season, your subjectivity and objectivity naturally become one. It is like a dumb man who has had a dream. He knows about it but he cannot tell it.

When he enters this condition his ego-shell is crushed and he can shake the heaven and move the earth. He is like a great warrior with a sharp sword. If a Buddha stands in his way, he will cut him down; if a patriarch offers him any obstacle, he will kill him; and he will be free in his way of birth and death. He can enter any world as if it were his own playground. I will tell you how to do this with this koan:

Just concentrate your whole energy into this Mu, and do not allow any discontinuation. When you enter this Mu and there is no discontinuation, your attainment will be as a candle burning and illuminating the whole universe.

Has a dog Buddha-nature?
This is the most serious question of all.
If you say yes or no,
You lose your own Buddha-nature.

– Joshu’s Dog