True Self



A distraught man approached the Zen master. "Please, Master, I feel lost, desperate. I don't know who I am. Please, show me my true self!" But the teacher just looked away without responding. The man began to plead and beg, but still the master gave no reply. Finally giving up in frustration, the man turned to leave. At that moment the master called out to him by name. "Yes!" the man said as he spun back around. "There it is!" exclaimed the master.


People's reactions to this story:
"I think the Zen master was trying to show him that his 'true self' was giving up too easily. He needs to be patient and then he will know who he really is."

"When this man doesn't get what he wants, he gives up and runs away. He's a quitter. He's frustrated. The master wanted to demonstrate this to him so they could then talk about it."

"His true self is that he doesn't push enough for what he wants. He gives up too easily. You should strive for your goals and never give up."

"Makes me think of the times I would ask my father to help me with homework. I would ask him a question, and he would say, 'Well, what do you think.' I always got really frustrated because I thought that if I was asking him then I didn't know the answer myself. But he was right. I always did come up with the solution myself."

"Only you can find yourself. He is who he is. The master showed him that by calling his name."

"Your true self is who you are - that's it!"

"No one can tell you who you are. You have to do that yourself."

"He who loses himself in a crowd always asks for guidance from elders. But when shunned, they are willing to walk away and search for the truth."

"This man only knew himself through his own name. He saw himself only through others."

"I have no clue what this is supposed to mean."

"I guess you will discover the most important things about yourself when you least expect to. There must be an element of surprise! When you're desperate, or trying too hard, you overlook things."

"You must surrender, give up, in order to really discover who you are."

"You have to give up on certain qualities of yourself, to unburden yourself, in order to find your true self."

"Is the master telling him that his identity IS his name?"

"I find it too simple that one's identity exists solely in one's name."

"You can't be distraught and get spiritual help - you have to go with the flow."

"Thinking about this story drove me bonkers!"


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John Suler, Ph.D. 1997 All rights reserved.