When a student of Zen is instructed to ask 'What is this?', she is being asked to contemplate her human experience and eventually understand the meaning of life; what is human existence in general, specifically why she exists, how she relates to other beings and how this relationship to other beings is benefited or not by her skillful and unskillful behavior.

Human beings, at the simplest deconstruction, consist of a body and mind. I am focusing on the mind now so I will assume, for the purpose of this essay, that the physical body is a constellation of cells, muscles, connective tissue, organs, all of which support the mind. This helps me avoid trying to boil the ocean. Mind-body connections and the origin of the mind in the body are important concepts. I will leave them aside, though, as a function of physiology for now. Instead, I'll focus instead on human mental and spiritual cognition and function.

Kierkegaard, in 'Sickness unto Death' described a human being as being a spirit, a self: ...[Continue reading on Innerabode]