In Zen, the concept of self is seen as a fundamental misunderstanding that arises from our limited perception of reality. The traditional Buddhist understanding of self is that it is a merely a mental construct, a collection of aggregates that appear to make up a single entity, but in reality are constantly changing and interdependent.
According to Zen, the concept of self arises from the dualistic thinking that separates the perceiver from the perceived, and creates a sense of separation and alienation. This sense of self is seen as a fundamental ignorance or delusion, as it obscures the true nature of reality and leads to suffering.
In Zen, the goal of spiritual practice is to see through this illusion of self and to realize the non-dual nature of reality. This is often accomplished through meditation, which provides a means of observing and understanding the workings of the mind and the nature of thoughts and emotions.
Through meditation and other spiritual practices, individuals can develop a clearer understanding of the impermanence of all things, including the self. This recognition can help to loosen the grip of the self, reducing attachment and leading to a greater sense of freedom and liberation.
In Zen, the idea of non-self is often referred to as “no-self” or “emptiness.” This does not mean that individuals do not exist, but rather that the self is not an independent, permanent entity with its own essence. Instead, the self is seen as a constantly changing and interdependent construct that arises in response to the world and our perceptions.
In practice, the understanding of non-self can help individuals to cultivate compassion and wisdom, as they recognize that all beings are interconnected and that suffering arises from a false sense of separation and alienation. This can lead to a greater sense of compassion and empathy towards others, as individuals recognize the inherent suffering that arises from the mistaken belief in a permanent self.
In conclusion, the Zen view of self is that it is a fundamentally mistaken concept that arises from dualistic thinking and a limited perception of reality. Through meditation and other spiritual practices, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of the impermanence and interdependence of all things, including the self, and can develop a greater sense of compassion and wisdom. The recognition of non-self is considered to be a key aspect of the path to enlightenment in Zen.