Ya know, looking for "self" could be much like floating in water wondering "where is the water" and "what is this that's wet"? Wondering about "self" and "not self" might be like wondering "am I floating in the water, or is the water floating me?" When we stop thinking about the question, there it is ... just there, and soaking wet.
To learn Buddhism is to learn ourselves. To learn ourselves is to forget ourselves. To forget ourselves is to be experienced by millions of things and phenomena. To be experienced by millions of things and phenomena is to let our own body and mind, and the body and mind of the external world, fall away. [Then] we can forget the [mental] trace of realization, and show the [real] signs of forgotten realization continually, moment by moment. When a person first seeks the Dharma, he is far removed from the borders of Dharma. But as soon as the Dharma is authentically transmitted to the person himself, he is a human being in his own true place.
Wherever I Go, I Meet Myself
Most of us want to know what the self is. This is a big problem. I am trying to understand why you have this problem. It seems to me that even though you try to understand who you are, it is an endless task, and you will never see your self. You say that to sit without thinking is difficult, but it will be even more difficult to try to think about your self. To reach a conclusion is almost.impossible, and if you continue trying, you become crazy, and you won't now what to do with your self. ...
Tozan, the founder of the Chinese Soto Zen School, said, "Don't try to see yourself objectively." In other words, don't try to seek for information about yourself that is the objective truth. That is information. He says that the real you is quite different from any information you have. The real you is not that kind of thing. "I go my own way. Wherever I go, I meet myself."
... When you empty your mind, when you give up everything and just practice zazen with an open mind, then whatever you see you meet yourself. That is you, beyond she or he or me. As long as you are clinging to the idea of self and trying to improve your practice or discover something, trying to create an improved, better self, then your practice has gone astray. You have no time to reach the goal, so eventually you will get tired out, and you will say, "Zen is no good. I practiced zazen for ten years, but I didn't gain anything!" But if you just come here and sit with sincere students and fmd yourself among them, and you continue in that way, that is our practice. You can have this kind of experience wherever you are. As Tozan said, "Wherever I go, I meet myself." If he sees water, that is to see himself To see water is enough for him, even though he cannot see himself in the water. So the way to understand yourself is not by understanding yourself objectively or gathering information from various sources. ...
If you cling to an idea you create, like a self or an objective reality, you will be lost in the objective world that you create with your mind. You are creating things one after another, so there is no end. There may be various worlds you are creating, and to create and see many things is very interesting, but you should not be lost in your creations. The other side of our practice is that we think and we act. We do not try to be like a stone. Everyday life is our practice. Instead of being enslaved by the thinking mind or the imagination or emotional activity, we just think in its true sense. Thinking comes to us from our true self, which includes everything. Before we think about it, trees, birds, and everything are thinking. And when they think, they groan or they sing. That is their thinking. There is no need for us to think more than that. If we see things as it is, thinking is already there. This kind of pure thinking is the thinking we have in our practice, so we always have freedom from ourselves too. We can see things as it is, and at the same time we can think about things. Because we do not cling to any particular standard for thinking, for us there is no true way and no false way.
Thank. you very much.
(From 'Not Always So')