Shakyamuni taught: "Depend upon your self as a torch, abide by your self. Do not depend on anything else." Dogen said: "To learn the Buddha Way is to learn your self." Such penetrating faith in the self-mind of humankind, however, cannot be spoken of without penetrating the depths of our existence.
Reflect carefully on this inseparable, fundamental fact of our existence. When I do, I find that what confronts me deep within attacks the distorted way of being by which I am only I. It laughs at me, a coward who clings to a small frame of "me" and cannot go beyond egoism. It always asks me, quiet and whispering, but more persistently than anything: "Where are you, really?" "Are you truly OK as you are?"
To see this fact more clearly, we can ask this question: In our everyday lives, what brings us true delight and makes our lives really worth living? For instance, I feel joy when I create something which breaks through my previous frame of mind, when I can share the joy of a friend as if I were that person, and when my soul is in touch with the life of a small wild flower. These things make my eyes twinkle and my heart flutter -- what does that indicate? Aren't we made to live in such a manner that the deep self does not forgive me, even if I run after true joy and salvation, so long as I maintain my ego?
The instant I throw away myself and die to myself, joy bursts through me. Up to that point, for fear of losing myself, I have always hesitated to step further, beyond the barrier. Now I have broken through at the risk of my very self. At that moment, my deepest self, which had been waiting patiently for this moment of decision, finally forgives me. I leap for joy body and soul; I say yes to everything. I understand the structure of the world and myself and quietly accept the whole of my existence as it is. Everything before me is now revealed in a radiating light. Freed from all separations and hindrances, I am now a truly self-abiding man.
I am convinced that this fact is rooted in our deepest self. Actually, it is this fact that vividly indicates where we really stand. We only live on the basis of this fact. In other words, we live in the midst of this fact. It does not lie far from where we are. Rather, we are made to live in it right here and now.
I have said things like "I forgive" and "I am forgiven." But what does that really mean? It is quite possible that I do not forgive myself at all in the depths of my existence, no matter what authority forgives me, no matter how many persons accept me. On the other hand, however, it is also possible for me to forgive myself in my heart of hearts, even if no one accepts me or even if my teacher denies me.
We can only witness to this fact ourselves. Right here and now we live where we are, "transcendent and independent" [according to Lin-chi/Rinzai] from all others. It is just as if an incessant voice were tirelessly whispering from there: "Here lies your true self." This is the truth of human existence, the truth of life. It is immutable forever.
The only way to attain peace of mind is to live sincerely and faithfully in the depths of ourselves. I am ready to accept the suffering and affliction arising from the fact of my existence. I will live by the sincerity which springs out of my depths. That is the only way I, who know nothing, could possibly live.
(translated by Nobumichi Takahashi)