Something that has resonated with my first exposure to it and find similar views though not necessarily synonymous, is the idea that there is no essential self, the idea of a soul is an illusion about consciousness. So whilst one empirically refers to 'I', as an ultimate truth, there is no I.
It was quite compelling to me, and replicated by others outside of eastern philosophy/religion, how there is the mistake that language is representative of reality itself
(fallacy of reification
, which I case is assumption of a referent) which leads to the belief that because one speaks of 'I' that ultimately such a thing exists
And so since there is no self, there is no mirror to speak as one's consciousness isn't that which is confined to our body but the active process between our body, behaviour and reality.
Which suggests to me that from such described emptiness there is an ability to be filled in some way.
“Look at this window: it is nothing but a hole in the wall, but because of it the whole room is full of light. So when the faculties are empty, the heart is full of light.” — Zhuangzi
And it seems what ever this Zen isn't simply an emptying of one's mind exactly, which is why meditation can't be essentialized as a guarantor of enlightenment, but it somehow about being within the immediate, a direct access to reality itself not mediated by our thinking, subjectivity, language. Which somehow breaks down the subject-object relation. Because there is no self to experience separate from reality then I guess, one experiences themselves as part of reality. As the opposite of individuation in which we separate ourselves as we develop our consciousness, language.
What is so confusing though is that whilst many of the texts can help eliminate error and confusion, it doesn't yet appear to me that such things make one necessarily any closer to zen, enlightenment. It's quite obscure how one accesses it as far as I can tell in my brief glimpses at things, somehow people just find themselves in such immediacy with reality. Which I guess is where this emphasis on the physical task and flowing with it comes up, where one is so present with their activity that there is no thinking beyond the now and one can act with a sort of effortlessness. Which is I guess where it gets associated with the sense of not really thinking explicitly but just naturally doing things with an intensity but not such an explicit conscious awareness. Though not sure that itself is necessarily Zen itself. And this is interesting to me in the emphasis on activity in considering consciousness, so instead of the passive self that contemplates as in Cartesian dualism, I think there is something amicable in Marxism with its idea of praxis which seems actually philosophically significant more than initially apparent and how this mediates the gap between a passive mechanical materialism and active idealism. As real people are active and its in this activity that anything arises in consciousness.
I have but a superficial exposure to many things that all seem to touch upon similar things, they're vague to me but it gives me the intuitive impression that they're onto something true of consciousness. The things about the not self, emphasis on activity and activity as not distinguished from consciousness exactly and issues of a fetishing of language and mistaking it for reality making for spontaneous ideology that obscures a conscious awareness of reality and how one abstracts it.
It seems to be some sort of knowledge that can't be taught exactly, in the way that the spirit of things as distinct from the words that describe them. Such that the words of wise people as written or spoken doesn't give one an understanding in the physical and active sense.
As I'm reminded of a stone cutter who comments on some masters reading of an old text that he was wasting his time, when told he should explain why sufficiently or be punished, he explained how when cutting stone the act of doing so conditioned his body acting on it, one learns through practice. He could not teach his son by merely telling him what to do, and similarly because knowledge of practice can't be transferred but only replicated, the words of wise men in books couldn't imbue one with such knowledge either, one would have to come to it themselves. Not that thinking and words are worthless, but that the truth of many things can't be expressed in them, because independent of actions, they tend to lack meaning, become highly abstract. And can see this when one is exposed to well developed concepts that are abstract, but is unable to identify such concepts with concrete things and experiences although they are true. Has to be some sort of combination of concepts with practice, or the concepts seem empty and for practice without the concepts, they seem unclear and misunderstood, at best only partial.