Q. What does ‘Dead words are living words to the enlightened whilst living words are dead words to the unenlightened’ mean?
A. The enlightened see everything as the true-Self, the Buddha and hear every sound as the sound of the Buddha. To them all words, whether good words, bad words, or even names, sound as dharma talks, the Buddha’s words. Then, even dead words are living words to them.
However, the unenlightened always chase after words literally without grasping what is beyond words. They, missing what the words point to, wrestle with the words themselves. Then, to them, all words, however good words they may be, are barriers that prevent them from seeing the true-Self. So, ancient masters would say, “If you follow only words, all the Sutras are Mara’s talk.” In the end, every word is neutral, not living, not dead. Whether it is living, or dead depends on how you hear.
Student: “Would you please say a living word for me?”
Master: “Hey, you thief. Why did you steal my money last night?”
Student: “No, Sir. What are you talking about? I never stole your money.”
Master: “What a shame! Why do you make my living word into a dead word?”
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway
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