110. The Sickness of the Self

Buddhism is a medicine for the sickness of the self.

It takes us a long time to realise it. What drives us to start to practice is a sense that something is missing. That we may be caught in the in breath of narcissism, or caught in the outbreath of depression. We may feel like there is dirt on our face which we can’t wash away.

But rather than something missing, something is not yet missing: the deep belief that there is a Me.

The fundamental belief in Buddhism is anatta, no self. In Zen we express this as emptiness. This belief is the foundation of everything else; Interdependence, total dynamic functioning and so on. It is why when we chant the Heart Sutra we chant that the Bodhisattva of Compassion, practicing Zazen, sees the five skandhas as empty and thereby relieves all suffering.

The oscillation, the breath, is not between the inflation and deflation of the self but between the five skandhas and everything, seen as vast compassionate space. We cannot lift ourselves, yet we are lifted up.

The sickness never really leaves us. But nonetheless, everything is illuminated.