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Q346. The Bible says that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. How can the rich enter the kingdom of God?

A. A rich man here means a man with a lot of illusions, rather than a man with a lot of knowledge or a lot of wealth. ‘Enter the kingdom of God’ means to attain eternal life in Christianity, or enlightenment in Buddhism. Only people who can see things as they are, may enter the kingdom of God. Seeing things as they are means not being deluded by illusions, which is to be able to see things as empty. In brief, only people who are free from illusions by seeing things as empty can enter the kingdom.

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My answer to your question is: ‘They can enter the kingdom of God if they realise how to put Mount Everest into a grain of a mustard seed’. To realise how to put Mount Everest into a grain of a mustard seed means to realise that everything is empty. When everything is empty, Both Mount Everest and a mustard seed are empty. When they are empty, there is no ‘large’ and ‘small’ in them. Then, each of them can enter each other freely.

 

To conclude, rich people, whether rich with illusions or rich with money and knowledge, can enter the kingdom when they can see everything, including all their possessions, as empty. When everything is empty, a camel and the eye of a needle are also empty just like Mount Everest and a mustard seed are. Then, it will be a piece of cake for the rich to pass through the eye of a needle.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Bible, Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, Enlightenment, final goal, illusion, master, Photography, Religion, root, self, student, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q345. Christians say that Christ died on the cross to save us from our sins. How should we understand this?

A. Buddhism has similar metaphors. Buddha said, “Those who want to see me through my voice and body won’t see me.” He also said, “Kill me when you meet me if you do want to see me.”

 

According to the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus once said, “When you see one who was not born of woman, prostrate yourselves on your faces and worship him. That one is your father.” Who is one who was not born of woman? He is not one who is doomed to birth and death. You should know him. ‘Christ died on the cross to save us from our sins’ means that he died on the cross in public in order to teach people that his physical body was not him and tell them not to be deluded by the illusion of his body. If you cling to the idea that the young crucified person is Jesus, you are being deluded by an illusion. In other words, you can see the true Jesus when you are free from the illusion of Jesus.

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Student: “Why did Jesus die on the cross, saying that his father was almighty?”

Master: “Don’t insult him. He didn’t die but gave his teaching.”

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, Enlightenment, final goal, illusion, master, Meditation, Photography, Practice, student, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q343. If everything is empty, why should I try to keep my empty life without giving it up?

A. Don’t be deluded by the word ’empty’ but try to experience through your whole body what it actually means. Saying that everything is empty doesn’t mean that everything is void and useless or nothing. This, on the contrary, means that it is unlimitedly useful and infinitely valuable beyond its labels. And the purpose of Zen meditation is to help people to realise the unlimited value of it that has been neglected so far because we are deluded by the labels. So, ancient masters would say, “Once you realise emptiness, all rubbish heaps turn into piles of treasure.”

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Student: “Why should I try to keep my empty life without giving it up?”

Master: “When your life is empty, there is no life to give up.”

 

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, illusion, Meditation, Mind, One, Photography, Practice, root, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q341. How should we understand this: ‘There is no connection whatsoever to our outside circumstances and what we feel’?

A. In the realm of form there is inevitable connection between our outside circumstances and what we feel. There is a theory called the butterfly effect that shows well how we influence and are influenced: A flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil can set off a tornado in Texas. We can’t avoid being connected to our outside circumstances regardless of whether we are conscious of the fact or not. For example, the price hike of oil in the Middle East can cause the prices of gas and petroleum products of your country to rise, which can lead you to feel the cost of living getting more expensive. In fact, how could you ask this question without the result of connection to your outside circumstances?

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However, in the realm of emptiness where you see everything as empty and feel oneness with all the universe, there is no connection between outside circumstances and what you feel, because, then, both outside circumstances and you yourself are empty and there is no division between them.

 

To conclude, there is connection between them in the realm of from, but not in the realm of emptiness. When we can see it in both ways, we can avoid being deluded by the illusions of connection in the realm of form.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, Enlightenment, final goal, Happiness, illusion, Koan, master, Meditation, Mind, One, Photography, Practice, Religion, root, self, student, sutras, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q339. What is the True Dharma the Buddha entrusted to Mahakashyapa?

A. When Shakyamuni Buddha was at Vulture Peak, he held out a flower to his listeners. Everyone was silent. Only Mahakashyapa broke into a broad smile.

 

The Buddha said, “I have the True Dharma Eye, the Marvellous Mind of Nirvana, the True Form of the Formless, and the Subtle Dharma Gate, independent of words and transmitted beyond doctrine. This I have entrusted to Mahakashyapa.”

 

Student: “What is the True Dharma the Buddha entrusted to Mahakashyapa?”

Master: “Mahakashyapa broke into a smile.”

Student: “Why did he break into a smile when the Buddha held out a flower?”

Master: “Because he didn’t see the flower.”

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Commentary:

Don’t be deluded to think that the Buddha entrusted the True Dharma to Mahakashyapa.

This is not what can be neither entrusted nor taken away.

Don’t be deluded by thinking that the Buddha held out a flower and Mahakashyapa broke into a smile at the flower.

Had he seen the flower, he would not have broken into a smile.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, illusion, Meditation, Photography, Practice, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q337. To what extent are we the choices we make and actions we take, particularly with regard to how these affect other people and the world around us?

A. What we are is the result of the choices we make and actions we take regardless of whether we are conscious of the fact or not. This is called ‘the law of cause and effect’ or ‘causation’. We can’t avoid affecting other people and the world around us, and nor can we be avoid being affected by them. We should try to have a good effect on others and to do that, we should make good choices and take good actions.

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In order to make good choices and take good actions, we should know how to accept the effect from others and the world around us. This is not only because we are more influenced by how we accept what they do to us than what they actually do us, but also because how we accept the effect from them determines our choices and actions.

 

So that we may accept the effect from outside well, we should be able to see it as it is without being deluded by the illusions of it. The purpose of Zen meditation is to teach people how to see things as they really are.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, Enlightenment, illusion, Meditation, Photography, Practice, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q334. How should I, as a businessman, accept the teaching that we should make no discrimination by seeing everything as empty?

A. It is very natural for you to expect something in return as a businessman. You should consider the ratio of reward to cost and calculate whether, when and how you will attain return for your goods or services, which is business. Not only a businessman but also even a housewife has to make discrimination in order to run her family budget efficiently and to bring up her children well. Whatever you are, a businessman or a housewife, you should do your best to make the best discrimination in your job. What would happen if a neurosurgeon should not make careful and delicate discrimination during his operation on his patient while thinking of it as empty?

 

Saying that everything is empty doesn’t mean that you should belittle the realities of life but that you should see the other side of the realities of life that you have neglected and not recognised so far, as well as the side that you have been accustomed to seeing. Then you can realise that there is unlimited possibility that can’t be confined by the labels attached to them.

 

Making discrimination in Zen means making discrimination without knowing that everything is empty. Discrimination you make while aware that everything is empty is not discrimination any longer. So, once you have realised that everything is empty, whatever discrimination you may make, you are free from making discrimination. He who knows that everything is empty and neutral is not so indulged in the pleasure of success as to overestimate his situation when everything comes up roses, because he knows that his success is also empty and neutral. Also, he is never so frustrated as to lose his composure even though he encounters a so-called failure. Rather, he can think of the failure as a steppingstone for his future success.

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To conclude, the phrase ‘you should not discriminate knowing that everything is empty’ doesn’t mean that you should make light of the realities of life but that you should not be a servant controlled by such illusions as success and failure but a master who can take advantage of them.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, Enlightenment, illusion, Koan, master, Meditation, Photography, self, student, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q333. Student: “What is not changing when everything, including mountains and rivers, changes?”

A. Master: “Mountains and rivers.”

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Commentary:

Master’s tongue is not long enough to say the answer.

You had better hear him with your eyes.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, Enlightenment, final goal, illusion, master, Meditation, Mind, Photography, Practice, root, student, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q332. What does Zen meditation have to do with reincarnation?

A. All our life we try to make good causes for good effects tomorrow. Trying your best to make yourself happy is trying to make good causes for good effects tomorrow. However, the key problem is that we don’t know what a good cause is and what a bad cause is, partly because our view of it varies according to our viewpoint and partly because what we think is a good cause very often turns out to bring a bad effect. So, we can’t help being worried about what effect we will get tomorrow even though we do our best to make good causes today. Furthermore, whatever good causes we may try to make, we can neither avoid death nor know what will happen to us after death. As a way of settling this challenging problem, primitive people would depend on the gods created by their imagination.

 

The purpose of Zen meditation is to help people to escape from the trap of reincarnation by realising that everything is empty. When everything is empty, not only birth and death but also transmigration and souls are empty illusions. Then reincarnation that means endless rebirth through transmigration of souls is also an empty illusion. In other words, Zen is to help people to free themselves from reincarnation by realising that reincarnation implies an endless cycle of illusions that feed on themselves and reproduce. So, to become free from reincarnation means to obtain eternal life or escape from the trap of life and death, which is also referred to as enlightenment in Buddhism.

 

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Student: “What do you think you will be reborn as after your death?”

Master: “I couldn’t care less.”

Student: “What if you should be reborn as a cow after death?”

Master: “Not bad at all.”

Student: “How can you say being reborn as an animal is not bad at all?”

Master: “Because it is empty.”

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, illusion, Meditation, moment, present, root, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q328. Is everything empty because it is always changing and not everlasting?

A. Absolutely not. Everything is empty not because it is always changing and not everlasting but because it doesn’t have its own fixed nature unless you grant it labels such as hard, soft, fragile, flexible et cetera. Emptiness is the state without any label or imaginary line, where there is no time.

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Time is a typical imaginary line. When there is no time, no change can take place since change means the passage of time. When there is no change, there is no life and death. Therefore, when you experience the truth that you are emptiness itself, you are said to escape from the yoke of life and death.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway