Zen

Buddha once said, “I transmit the true Dharma to Mahakasyapa.”

According to the Sutras, Buddha once said, “I transmit the true Dharma that I have, to my student, Mahakasyapa.” before the congregation one day. Regarding this, a monk asked Master Heung-hwa, “What did Buddha transmit to Mahakasyapa then?” The master answered, “One person transmitted falsely, and ten thousand people transmitted truly.”

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Student: “What’s the difference between what was truly transmitted and what was falsely transmitted?”

Master: “I transmit the true Dharma to you now. I hope you are quick to take it.”

Student: “Thank you, but I don’t know how to take it.”

Master: “Why do you try to take truly what I falsely transmitted?”

 

Commentary:

What can be transmitted or taken is not the true Dharma.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Zen

Rinzai 63

A monk asked: “What are Buddha and Mara?”

The master said: A moment of doubt in your heart is Mara. But if you can grasp that the ten thousand things are unborn and that the heart is like an illusionary fantasy, then nothing even of the size of a speck of dust exists — everywhere is purity — this is Buddha. It may be said that Buddha and Mara present the pure and the tainted state; yet as I see it there is no Buddha, no living being, no past, no present.

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Commentary:

‘A moment of doubt in your heart’ means to identify all things with their names and mistakenly regard these names as the essence of the things, that is, to be deluded by words. ‘The ten thousand things are unborn’ implies that nothing comes into existence on its own and that everything is of our own imaginary creation. ‘The mind is like an illusionary fantasy’ means that the ‘mind’ regarded as the true-Self by practitioners is also a kind of name, an imaginary label created by us and that it is originally nameless. If you can see everything in this way, you realise that nothing even of the size of a speck of dust exists on its own and that everything is empty. ‘As I see it there is no Buddha, no living being, no past, no present’ means that although Buddha and Mara are said to present the pure and the tainted states respectively, Master Rinzai himself is aware that there is no Buddha, no living being, no past, no present since he can see everything as empty without being deluded by their illusions, names.

 

Student: “What is the difference between Buddha and Mara?”

Master: “What changes is Mara and what never changes is Buddha.”

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

 

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Zen

Q. Are we in the world, or is the world in us?

A. It depends on how you see. If you confine yourself to your physical body as separate from the world, you are in the world. If you eliminate all names from yourself and remove the boundary of you that defines your body as you, there is nothing, not to mention the world, that is not in you.

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Seeing and hearing everything in the former way is seeing things as forms and seeing and hearing everything in the latter way means seeing things as Emptiness. The ability to see things in both ways at the same time, just as we can see a cup and porcelain at the same time when seeing a porcelain cup, is enlightenment.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

 

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Zen

Dae-ja’s ‘take me’

Master Dae-ja asked, “Where are you going?” when a monk said farewell. The monk said, “I am going to my hometown.” The master said, “Can you take me there with you?” The monk answered, “I can’t take not just you but also even one who is superior to you.”

 

Student: “Why can’t the monk take the master with him?”

Master: “Because even he can’t go there if he takes anyone or anything with him.”

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Commentary:

Going there takes no time. What takes time and makes the trip difficult is to abandon all people and everything.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

 

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Zen

Rinzai 62

For if Buddha and Mara happen to appear in one form, he could not differentiate them. Yet, as the gander king knows how to drink only the milk from a mixture of milk and water, so does the clear eye.

Followers of the Way, just beat up both Buddha and Mara. For if you love the sacred and hate the worldly, you go on floating and sinking in the ocean of birth and death.

Commentary:

Buddha is to Mara as Emptiness is to forms. Buddha and Mara are not different and separate from each other but one in the same way Emptiness is the same as forms. So, an ancient master would say, “There is a precious treasure hidden amidst forms between the sky and the earth.” Buddha and Mara always appear as one. That’s why they are said to be as difficult to distinguish from each other as milk and water are to distinguish from each other in a mixture of milk and water. An enlightened man is compared to ‘the gander king’ which can drink just the milk out of a mixture of milk and water.

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‘Just beat up both Buddha and Mara’ means that we should not be tempted to cling to Buddha and the sacred, or to hate and avoid Mara and the worldly since all of them are only illusions. In fact, all the labels, imaginary lines, including Buddha and Mara, are just illusions, which are also known as Mara. The state without any illusions is Buddha.

Student: “How can I beat up Buddha and Mara?”

Master: “You don’t have to try in vain to remove the horns of a rabbit.”

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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Zen

Q. Will the earth come to an end?

A. Every moment is the end of something and the start of something new at the same time. Nothing is what it was yesterday since everything is in ceaseless change. It’s why a philosopher said that no one can swim in the same river twice. In Buddhism, it is said that everything that comes into being is bound to perish sooner or later.

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The essence of Buddhism is to realise what survives the end of, not only the earth, but also all the other things.

 

Student: “What survives the end of the earth?”

Master: “The earth is from it.”

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

 

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Zen

How can I take a boat that can cross the ocean of birth and death?

When a monk asked Master Sulbong, “How can I take a boat that can cross the ocean of birth and death?”, the master answered, “If you get on a raft, it will sink to the bottom, and if you get on a boat, it will sink, too.”

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Student: “Why do a raft and a boat sink whenever we board them?”

Master: “Because no vehicle is large enough to accommodate you.”

Student: “Then, how can I cross the ocean?”

Master: “Why don’t you jump over it?”

 

Commentary:

In order to reach your destination, you should know where you are now above all.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

 

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Zen

Rinzai 61

One cannot call them true leavers of home; they are just ordinary laymen. A man who has left home should know how to see clearly and calmly, should know Buddha from Mara, the true from the false, the worldly from the sacred. If he has got this knowledge, he can truly be called a leaver of home. If he does not know Buddha from Mara, then in effect he leaves one home only to enter another, and is what is called a karma-producing living being. He cannot yet be called a true leaver of home.

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Commentary:

Them’ in ‘one cannot call them true leavers of home’ refers to the people who avoid crowded and noisy places and stick to only quiet places in order to enter the Path.‘Leavers of home’ has two meanings. One means those who have become monks for the purpose of attaining enlightenment. The other means enlightened people who have escaped home, that is, a burning house that symbolises the mundane world full of suffering. So, true leavers of home here means enlightened monks. ‘Know Buddha from Mara, the true from the false, the worldly from the sacred’ means to see and hear everything in both ways; as Emptiness and as forms. ‘In effect he leaves one home only to enter another’ means that leaving crowded places and sticking to only quiet places is like getting out of one home of ‘crowded’ illusions and entering another of ‘quiet’ illusions. This means that he is still being deluded by illusions of ‘crowded’ and ‘quiet’. That’s why he cannot yet be called a true leaver of home.

Student: “How can I be a true leaver of home?”

Master: “That’s another home.”

 

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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Zen

Q. Does non-thinking require effort?

A. Above all, you need a correct definition of non-thinking. You should know that non-thinking is not to stop thinking altogether, just like stone, but rather to stop being deluded by illusions, or words. Granted, it may be possible to stop thinking during your practice in a quiet place, but it is impossible in your ordinary life, away from your practice room, which demands decisions and choices at every moment, no matter what effort you may make to stop your thinking.

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However, once you have realised that everything is empty, it is possible to stop being deluded by illusions, all the time, without any effort. I’d like to advise you to try to see everything as empty, to see everything as it is and not to try to stop thinking.

 

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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Zen

Hwang-byuk’s ‘on the end of my Zen stick’

Master Hwang-byuk said to a monk, “All masters all around the country are on the end of my Zen stick.” The monk went to Master Dae-soo and told him what Hwang-byuk had said. Then, Dae-soo said, “Although Hwang-byuk said so, how could he go to see all the masters all around the country?” When the monk returned to Hwang-byuk and told him what Dae-soo had said. Hwang-byuk said, “My story has already spread all around the world.”

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Student: “What did Hwang-byuk mean by saying, ‘All masters all around the world are on the end of my Zen stick’?”

Master: “He did what can’t be said.”

Student: “What did Dae-soo mean by saying, ‘Although Hwang-byuk said so, how could he go to see all the masters all around the country?’?”

Master: “He said what can’t be done.”

Student: “What did Hwang-byuk mean by saying, ‘My story has already spread all around the world’?”

Master: “He did what Dae-soo said.”

 

Commentary:

What can’t be said is hidden in what is done and what can’t be done is hidden in what is said.

 

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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