The Student: Master, this apple is as irrelevant as a moose in a thunderstorm.
The Master: Yet the apple makes better sauce.
As far as I can tell, they're both right.
Zen seems to be all about understanding the true self. This seems to be an important idea throughout humanity. The Greeks said "Know Thyself." Shakespeare wrote "To thine own self be true." It seems like a pretty good idea, and lots of people agree. So why is there this whole big thing?
Because it's entirely unnatural. We don't experience ourselves. We experience ourselves in relation to other things. All of our senses only work because the world around us is affecting us.
It's kinda like this: You know that one couple you know? Let's call them Jim and Eva. They spend so much time with each other, doing everything together, that they've ceased to be "Jim" and "Eva," and now they're "JimandEva." They have lost sense of self, and only know themselves in how they relate to the other. In a way, this happens with everything we see and do.
So how do we avoid this?
It ain't easy. That's why there's this whole big thing.
Remember Nature v. Nurture? It seems to me like zen is all about deconstructing your entire nurtured side, so that only your nature remains... and then deconstructing your nature to reveal that you were the Buddha the whole time.
It's kinda like Scooby-Doo. The mystery is life, the The Black Knight is you, and Old Man Wickles is the Buddha.