Buddhist teachings talk about having no distinction between “self” and “other.” But they also talk about using meditation to discover one’s “true self.” if we’re trying to diminish the gap between self and other, how does discovering one’s self help in that process? When i meditate, i discover more about myself, but that seems to get in the way of dropping my sense of self. So this confuses me a lot!
Zenkei Blanche Hartman: Yes, the Buddha taught about no distinction between “self” and “other” and he also taught about liberation from the suffering of self-clinging. He taught by sharing his direct experience of liberation. And he taught that a “self” separate from all existence is a construct of the mind and cannot be found in reality. Thus, discovering the “true self” is having the direct experience of identity with all that is; it is “being one with everything.” It is not that we meditate to try to diminish the gap between self and other. Rather, we practice in order to see directly that there never is such a gap in reality. The separation is created by our thoughts and a lifetime of conditioning.
Excerpted from the Spring 2013 issue of Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly, available on newsstands and by subscription.
Zenkei Blanche Hartman is former abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center.
Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche is a lineage holder of the Bön Dzogchen tradition of Tibet.
Narayan Liebenson Grady is a guiding teacher at Cambridge Insight Meditation Center.