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Lions Roar : July 2016
ing, egocentric consciousness. As Yasutani Roshi said, “Most people place a high value on abstract thought, but Buddhism has clearly demonstrated that discriminative thinking lies at the root of delusion.” Thoughts—and feelings triggered by thoughts—are mutable and impermanent, and yet because we humans incorrectly identify our being with our thinking, we construct a false notion of ourselves out of ideas and memories that have no actual sub- stance. No wonder the ego is called “the false self.” The false self— the thinking mind—is continuously talking to itself, disturbing itself, even lying to itself. Reimagining the past or fantasizing about the future. Setting up expectations that aren’t met, then casting judgment and blame. Struggling every step of the way to stop struggling. Naturally, it doesn’t work. This realization is a critical departure from the methods of modern psychology or self-help. Buddhism in general, and Zen in particular, is not concerned with the content of thoughts or feelings, except to recognize that they are the cause of con- fusion, emotional paralysis, and pain. In and of themselves, thoughts are no big deal, except when we make a big deal out of them, creating a dualistic separation from reality, which is a wordy way to say “a problem.” “Emotionally we have many problems, but these problems are not actual problems; they are something created; they are problems pointed out by our self-centered ideas or views,” Suzuki Roshi said. Easy for a Zen master to say, but hard to believe until you see it for yourself. Such is the kindness of Bodhidharma in this koan. Out of boundless compassion, he doesn’t give you what you ask for, but he tells you how to find it yourself. Until you free yourself, you won’t realize that there is no self to free. You are imprisoned by nothing and no one but your own thoughts, which self-liberate the moment you stop thinking about them. Don’t think about your thoughts. PHOTOBYDALTONPORTELLA LION’S ROAR | JULY 2016 58