Original Self vs Acquired self or The doctrine of “ No-Self”
XIII century Zen Master Dogen taught the following:
“ The daily practice of Zen and Zen meditation is to discover your true original self
To discover your true self is to study your acquired self.
To study your acquired self is to forget your own self”.
To forget own self is to shred all your mind-made illusions and delusions.
As usual in many Zen sayings, this statement seems paradoxical.
The doctrine of “No Self”:
“No-Self” does not mean that the self does not exist. Of course, each of us does exist as a living being but we need to make the distinction between the acquired- perceived Self and Original or True Self”.
The “Acquired self” is the self as we believe in, or that we perceive as the real self:
“I have, I am my own self” is true, but this “Own self” is limited to our physical, mental, emotional, and societal attributes. That’s about it.
We perceive ourselves as somewhat as a unique, isolated, independent, in control, separate, and self-sustained material living entity. This pure delusion and a great source of suffering because we will see that our Original /True self has nothing to do with it how we perceive ourselves.
The “No’ in “No-self” simply means that there is NO such self as we perceive it.
All living beings are transient, interconnected, and interdependent.
The absence of these attributes defines our original, genuine self also called
Our “Original, genuine, true self:”
To know our original self, we must get rid of this powerful delusion of this so-called
“Acquired /perceived self” is just the transient material
So, what it is?: Nobody can answer this question 100%.
When we behave in a selfish way we are serving our ego-driven Own Self but, when we become aware of our deeper nature that is our Original Self, we are able to differentiate factual realities from delusions and illusions. You open the door to serenity and Awakening.
According to Zen Buddhism, enlightenment is not something you obtain for yourself, but the opposite that is something that will naturally occur when you give away your mind-made delusions. Zen does not advocate the destruction of our personality but simply to realize what we are, and to differentiate with what we are not.
Everything is one because all living beings are interconnected and interdependent.
So, what are the practical applications of the doctrine of “No-self” you may ask.?
When you have a glimpse of your Original Self, you realize that you have been under the control of your powerful ego-driven mind, the main component of your “Acquired/perceived self”.
Becoming less egotistic, selflessness appears, and with it less anger, less anxiety, fewer regrets, less expectation, and more compassion towards self and others.
To become totally selfless is an impossible task. As long you believe you are unique and separate, serving others that you perceive also unique and separate is also close to impossible unless, as Dogen said: “To discover your True Self is to forget your own self.”