Q142. Should ‘I’ be thrown away to attain enlightenment?

A. It is a very common saying in Zen that we should discard ‘I’ in order to attain enlightenment. This saying, however, is like putting the cart before the horse. This nonsensical saying is possible because we don’t know what we say. How would it be possible to discard ‘I’ without so much as knowing what it is? However hard we may try to discard ‘I’, it never disappears unless we realise what it is.

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In fact, it is can’t be removed by force but disappears by itself when we realise what it is. The truth is not that it disappears, but that you realise that there is no ‘I’. In other words, you should realise that what seems to be your ‘I’ is just an illusion.

Trying to remove your ‘I’ without knowing what it is, is like trying to sweep away a shadow cast on the ground. If you are to remove your ‘I’, try to realise what it is instead of trying in vain to eliminate it.

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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