Practicing With “What Am I?”

Student: What is the relationship between asking “What am I?” and the flow of thoughts, perceptions, etc.? For example, do you address the question to particular thoughts, pains in the knee when sitting, etc.? When a thought comes, do you ask whom this thought is coming to? How do you work with problems such as fear and anger? Should one acknowledge the fear and then ask who is experiencing the fear? Or should they just let it all happen and pour all their energy into the great question?

Zen Master Seung Sahn: True “What am I?” is the complete question—only don’t know mind.  All your questions are thinking.  If you keep the complete “What am I?”, then you don’t know “What am I?”  All thinking has been cut off, so how can a question appear? Asking who is thinking is not the correct way. This is opposites thinking.  These are opposites questions, not the complete question, the perfect question. Pain is pain, the question is the question. Why ask the question about pain? Actions such as anger and fear are made by past karma, so the result is actions done in anger, etc.

If a person sits Zen, they will make their karma disappear and will no longer be caught up in these actions. So when you are angry, that’s alright, don’t worry. “I want to cut off anger!”—that’s thinking. Anger is not good, not bad. Only don’t be attached to it. Only ask, “What am I?” and the action will soon disappear.

By Zen Master Seung Sahn