Oakville Zen Meditation

#99. Self, No self and the Web of Life.7MAR16

How do we define the “self”?

The way we define and delimit Self that is you, others and me living beings is very arbitrary and restrictive.

This “individual self” is a living biological organism made of around 30 Trillions of cells made of 7 x 10 power 27 molecules. This self is capable of moving, doing things, creating, having thoughts and emotions during its life span after which such biological organism will die. We will call it “biological self” for the purpose of the following discussion.

Self does exist but, is our perception of “this biological self “ right? That is, are we, each of us, somewhat a permanent, unique, independent and separate self-entity? Most of us would agree with this perception.

What is the meaning of “No-Self”?

The meaning of No-Self” is very difficult to comprehend - if not to accept- since the self that is YOU, ME, and any other living beings do exist as a material, mental and spiritual identity.

Our initial perception of our “biological self”, as described before is, in fact, improper since we are all a transient, interconnected, interdependent entity within the Universe. Obviously, this biological self cannot survive on its own.

Clearly no living being has a permanent, unique, independent, and separate self-entity. These “4 absences of” define the No in the word No-Self. So, No-self does not mean negative or absence of biological self since we do exist but simply means that our individual self has no permanency, no uniqueness, no independence and no separate self-entity. Again, no biological self can survive on its own therefore individual self is sort of No-self.

Expanding the reality of our individual self further.

We can widen our very restrictive definition of biological self to include the outside world, for example, the air we breathe.

Expanding a bit more, we can cast our biological self boundaries farther out to include our external lungs such as the oxygen-giving trees and oceans’ plankton, the food from the ground and the energy from the sun.

We can expand even further our biological entity by including the entire web of life from which we are surviving over 3.5 billions years. None of our molecules are specific of us. They are found all around in the Universe. Only the molecular sequence of our DNA is specific but not the molecules per se.

So, this individual Self can and should be extended toward the concept of True Self.

How do we define our “True self” or Universal Self?

Defining our True Self cannot be done properly with words since this state is an experience to discover ourselves. An analogy would be to try to describe the taste of orange juice only with words. Even with thousand of words you will have no idea of what an orange juice tastes like. Only by drinking a glass of it you will find out.

To discover our True self or Universal Self is to experience the entire world as an extension of our individual Self described above.

This discovery does not mean to surrender our individuality but rather to extend it beyond its biological limits. As mentioned previously, we are not a permanent, unique, independent and separate entity but an integral part of the vast web of life.

Zen says:

“There is nothing in the Universe, which is not part of us, and there is nothing in us, which is not part of the Universe. This is called Oneness, this is True Self.”

Each living being is expressing her/his own awareness by the way he/she thinks and feels positively or negatively about other, the surroundings and the world. This awareness is the proof of our interconnectiveness and collective consciousness. Both of them define global consciousness.

Contrary to our individual awareness, global consciousness by definition never dies.

Using the Web as an analogy, the interconnectiveness of computers forms the Web in which Internet is their global consciousness.


Consider this metaphor. The ocean is True Self. One wave is the biological self.

Now, visualize this ocean and its zillions on waves on its surface.

Each of them is different and all of them come and go. Each single wave is equivalent to each biological self but each wave is ALSO an integral part of the ocean that is the True Self. A wave cannot exist on its own. So the biological self that is a single wave is also part of the True Self that is the ocean.

By expanding our biological or individual self thru experience, we realize that we are, in fact, an integral part of the True Self common to all things and this True Self is, itself, part of global consciousness.

We have been conditioned by our Western education, philosophy and religions to view ourselves as a unique, independent and separate entity, different from every other living being. The view has been a fantastic ego booster but also, unfortunately, a great source of suffering. Having some ego is obviously critical but too much is the main sources of our unhappiness, dissatisfactions and stress. It promotes ongoing desires, negative feelings and delusions.

Discovering that you – biological self- is more than what you think you are opens the door to less dissatisfaction, less stress, less fear, more optimism, inner serenity, more empathy and generosity to others.

Meditation will help in the quest to discover your True Self already inside you.

Thank you

JI Gong Sunim March 7th 2016