The Self and Liberation
The fundamental difference between Buddhism and other religions is that Buddhism has no God or gods before whom people bow down in return for peace of mind. The spirit enmeshed in the Buddha’s teachings refuses to offer a god in exchange for freedom from anxiety. Instead, freedom from anxiety can only be found at the point where the Self settles naturally upon itself.
Far too often we get entangled in setting up some goal, and by pursuing that goal we invest it with the power to give meaning to our lives. Ironically, and unfortunately, we suffer because of our goals. Inflating that goal with great significance sets our “self” in opposition to the goal and we suffer in direct proportion to our fixation on attaining that goal. Consequently, there is always going to be a sense of instability or anxiety in our lives.
When I use the term Self, I am not referring to some fixed entity; the Self is life and life is functioning. Functioning means activity which works toward the world in which this Self lives. When I talk of a “Self settling upon itself” do not interpret this to mean a withdrawing and escaping from society. On the contrary, this expression means that your life manifests itself as life. It is a Self that works to settle or bring composure to everything you encounter in your life.
Excerpted from “From the Zen Kitchen to Enlightenment” by Dogen and Uchiyama