by the late Ven Sheng Yen, The Buddhist Channel, Feb 3, 2009

To find your real self, you must lose yourself. I tell my students that they must put aside thoughts about their own birth and death if they are to get anywhere.

<< Zen Master Ven Sheng Yen: 1930 - 2009

A meditator who is full of thoughts about himself, thoughts of improving his health, or of gaining limitless freedom, will attain neither wisdom nor freedom.

The self derives from the three poisons – desire, aggression and delusion. Practicing Ch’an, you can gradually eliminate these three poisons.

As the poisons are eliminated, you acquire wisdom and dissolve the false concept of self, so that your true self-nature is revealed. At that point, you discover that self-nature is selflessness.

Having reached this stage, you know what is meant by living Buddhism and true self-nature.

While the self ultimately needs to be dissolved, in the meantime, we need this self to help us reach selflessness. To think of being selfless from the very beginning, without having gone through the path of practice, is called “wild fox Ch’an”.

Just as a baby must crawl before it can walk, you must begin with your ordinary self before finding self-nature. From there you proceed by stages of practice to wisdom.

Therefore you should understand why we must start the practice with our ordinary, selfish self. It is not to be despised; it is your vehicle to selflessness.

Article republished from Ven Sheng Yen’s book “Getting the Buddha Mind” in tribute to a Zen Master who had lived a full selfless life, and one which embodied the meaning of selflessness in its truest, sincerest sense.