I have been reading Dropping Ashes On The Buddha: The Teaching of Zen Master Seung Sahn. Through questions, dialogues, stories, interviews, and Darma speeches, he shares his knowledge of Buddhism.
In many of the writings, it is suggested that one meditate on "What am I?" as a way to finding the Buddha. While that sounds a little self serving, I did want to write about my thoughts on "what I am" in relation to what I have learned through my studies of Buddhism.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, I was born Jewish and have studied many religions but have never found as much "Peace of Mind" in any of them as I recently have found in my studies of Buddhism.
In my current situation with Gregory and our path with his Dementia/Alzheiemer's I desperately needed, and have gratefully found some Peace of Mind.
So here are some of my current thoughts on "What am I?"
I was me before I was born into a Jewish family, raised with Jewish traditions and beliefs, had my Bar-Mitzvah.
I was me before I went through the usual sequence of schooling: Primary, Secondary, College, Post Graduate Work, Workshops, Seminars, Training Sessions, Textual Readings.
I was me before I was told what and how to think by my parents, relatives, neighbors, friends, teachers, religious leaders, books, newspapers, films, TV, and the general world around me.
For that matter I was me before I learned anything; while I lie in my diapers, wet or otherwise, suckled my mother's tit and then the rubber nipple, slowly ate pureed foods and then moved on to solids.
I was me before I realized I had a civilization, a culture, and a full background of experiences on which to base my thoughts, understandings, feelings, emotions, etc.
I was me before I had language to label, classify, and categorize things and definitely before I had likes and dislikes, rights and wrongs, happys and sads, successes and failures.
I was me before I realized the difference between male and female, before realizing I was a male, a gay male at that who had deep feelings for other men; comradely feelings, sexual feelings, love feelings.
I was me before I considered myself an educator, a poet, a writer, a photographer, a bookbinder, an actor, an artist, and more.
So if I am not able to use any of this information to tell you "Who I am" then who am I? Lets use the concept of "emptiness." If I am just who I am without using any of the "baggage" I have come to accept about myself; through what I have heard, through what I have been told, through what I have experienced, through what I have learned; then I am just who I am.
I can be empty, without any judgement of myself and my life. I can create how and with what I want to fill myself, as long as I hold on to the idea that "in the beginning" there was this baby born into this world, and he was pure, and his was truth, and he was in touch with all he needed to know. That is who I am!
Let me move to the next level of my thinking.
I sit here and I see. It is as if I live in this body and my eyes are the window to my world. It is as if I sit at a console with a screen in front of me which is attached to a camera and I monitor the world in front of me, and around me as I rotate the camera.
I see a green coffee mug with steaming, delicious liquid in front of me and I raise it to my lips, take a careful not to burn my tongue sip, and place it gingerly back down on its coaster so as not to leave a ring on the console.
But if I take myself back to my pre-labeling, classifying, and categorizing self where am I? What am I doing? How do I describe it? How do I think about it? Do I assign good or bad to it, happy or sad to it, right or wrong to it?
Or is it just what it is? I see what I see. I see.
Each night I read a little more of Dropping Ashes On The Buddha. Perhaps it is slowly affecting my thinking. As I was drifting off to sleep, my kitty at my side, I was stroking her fur thinking how soft she is. I realized I had labeled her "kitty" and her "fur" and described the feeling as "soft."
So then I tried to just feel her without adding any descriptors, with keeping my mind empty, and I seemed to experience her in a totally new, and different way than I ever had. With no words to get in the way, although I use them now, "softness" seemed a whole new experience for me. I was amazed.
What Am I? If I am able to not label things in my life as good or bad, happy or sad. If I see them just as things without positive or negative value, if I can avoid labeling, if I can avoid judging, then suffering can be defused. It can cease to exist. And what does exist is just existence.
Life is what it is. I am what I am. There is an emptiness involved when you do not have to fill up your life, your person; with descriptors, with qualifiers, with judgments, with labels, with rights and wrongs, with goods and bad.
It is what it is. It is how you choose to live it.