A. A living phrase and a dead phrase are expressions used by masters so that they may warn people no to be deluded by words. When you listen to Dharma talks, or read the Sutras, or the Buddhist books on enlightenment, or the true-Self by ancient masters, you should bear in mind that every single word and every phrase contains all the truth that Buddhism says. This is why ancient masters would say to their students, “Grasp only a single word and you will attain enlightenment.”
The phrase ‘everything is the Buddha’, for example, is one of the most common and popular phrases that appear repeatedly in almost all Buddhist books regarding enlightenment. If we understood it perfectly, everything, including the phrase ‘everything is the Buddha’, should look like the Buddha to us, and if so, we would be enlightened. When every phrase looks and sounds like the Buddha to us, it is referred to as a living phrase. Or, when it causes us to doubt and ask ourselves, “How can I see things as the Buddha? How do things appear when I see them as the Buddha?” it is also called a living phrase.
However, when we listen to Dharma talks, or read Buddhist books in the same way we listen to ordinary lectures and read ordinary literature, we are said to be following dead phrases, or to be deluded by dead phrases.
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway
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