Sanbo Zen teacher, author, activist and scholar, David Loy’s recent talk begins with Shayamuni’s core realization about essential nature. He saw that because he was never born, he cannot die. There is no self to die. The Buddhist teaching of non-self is unique in the history of spiritual traditions. Most traditions believe in a soul or an ongoing essence that goes with us after we die. Buddhism doesn’t have this.
There is no actual separate self despite the sense that there is, the sense of duality, you and me, us an them. etc. This sense of having a separate self is not only delusion but is – at the core – the source and cause of our suffering and dissatisfaction. We are inherently uncomfortable with this duality; we can’t resolve it because it’s unresolvable and seems to make us persistently insecure, or more aptly, unsecured. We are left with the sense of lack, that something is missing, that something is inherently wrong with us.
In modern psychology the sense of self is a construct, not something we are born with. We learn how to see ourselves as others see us, starting with our early caretakers. It’s composed of habitual ways of thinking, being, acting, reacting, believing, etc. David looks at how we understand our sense of lack today, in modern western society that promotes self individualization. He also ties our sense of lack to our greater social and environmental issues that we face today.