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The illusion of self and other

Have you ever questioned reality or who you really are? Did you know that the function of cognition causes this confusion?


Cognition is the function that enables us to think that something exists. For example, we might think, “there is a computer.”


When thinking “there is a computer,” the computer that is thought to exist becomes an “object,” and it also seems like there is a thinking “I” that exists as a “subject.” This creates the sense of separation between self and other. But “I” is a thought. There is no “I” that exists as an actual entity.


With cognition, what happens when a thought, such as “I’m worthless” arises? It creates a feeling as if a “worthless me” actually exists. This then may create a desire to change what is thought to be that “worthless me” into a “worthy me.” But “I’m worthless” is one thought. Try doing nothing about it, and it will be clear that “I’m worthless” has disappeared before you know it, because it is a thought. And then there is a different thought.


Imagine a newborn baby. Before a baby’s cognitive function is developed, you can see that the baby does not seem to have a sense of self and other. After cognition begins to function, babies start recognizing mama and others. This is the beginning of the sense of self and other.


It is possible to be free from the misunderstandings caused by cognition. To learn more, join us at our online zazenkai.


By Jisho Matsumoto

Translated by Madoka Chase Onizuka


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