Chapter 5: The Real Self
A wrestler named O-Nami, Great Waves, was immensely strong and highly skilled in the art of wrestling. In private he defeated even his very teacher, but in public his own young pupils could throw him.
In his trouble he went to a Zen master who was stopping at a nearby temple by the sea, and asked for counsel.
“Great Waves is your name,” said the master, “so stay in this temple tonight and listen to the waves of the sea. Imagine you are those waves. Forget you are a wrestler, and become those huge waves sweeping everything before them.”
O-Nami remained. He tried to think only of the waves, but he thought of many things. Then gradually he did think only of the waves. They rolled larger and larger as the night wore on. They swept away the flowers in the vases before the buddha; they swept away the vases. Even the bronze buddha was swept away. By dawn the temple was only surging water, and O-Nami sat there with a faint smile on his face.
That day he entered the public wrestling and won every bout, and from that day no one in Japan could ever throw him.
Self-consciousness is a disease. Consciousness is health; self-consciousness is disease - something has gone wrong. Some tie has arisen, some complex. The river of consciousness is not flowing naturally. Something foreign has entered into the river of consciousness, something alien, something that cannot be absorbed by the river, something that cannot become part of the river, something that resists becoming part of the river.
Self-consciousness is morbidity. Self-consciousness is a frozen state, blocked. It is like a dirty pool, going nowhere - just drying, evaporating and dying. Of course, it stinks.
So the first thing to be understood is the difference between self-consciousness and consciousness.
Consciousness has no idea of “I,” of ego. It has no idea of one’s separation from existence. It does not know any barrier, it knows no boundaries. It is one with existence; it is in a deep at-onement. There is no conflict between the individual and the whole. One is simply flowing into the whole, and the whole is flowing into one. It is like breathing: you breathe in, you breathe out. When you breathe in, the whole enters you; when you breathe out, you enter the whole. It is a constant flow, a constant sharing. The whole goes on giving to you and you go on giving to the whole. The balance is never lost.
But in a self-conscious man something has gone wrong. He takes in but he never gives out. He goes on accumulating and he has become incapable of sharing. He goes on making boundaries around himself so nobody can trespass. He goes on putting boards around his being: No Trespassing Allowed. By and by, he becomes a grave, a dead being - because life is in sharing.
A self is a dead thing, alive only for the name’s sake. Consciousness is infinite life, life abundant. It knows no boundaries. But ordinarily, everybody is self-conscious.
To be self-conscious is to be unconscious. This paradox has to be understood: to be self-conscious is to be unconscious. And to be unself-conscious, or to be self-unconscious, is to become conscious. And when there is no self, when this small, tiny self disappears, you attain to the real self with a capital “S” - call it the “supreme self,” the “self of all.”