Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, Enlightenment, final goal, Koan, master, Meditation, One, Photography, Practice, student, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q348. Kyogen said, “Let’s suppose a man is hanging by his teeth from a branch of a tree that is leaning over a precipice. His hands grasp no branch, his feet rest on no limb, and under the tree another man asks him, ‘Why did Bodhidharma come to China from the West (India)?’ If the man in the tree does not answer, he misses the question, and if he answers, he falls and loses his life. Now what shall he do?”

A. Student: “How can you both answer the question and save your life?”

Master: “In danger.”

Student: “Who is in danger?”

Master: “You are in danger.”

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Commentary:

Don’t stumble over the lines drawn on flat land by you.

They can’t catch your feet however tangled they are.

Don’t be scared of your shadow.

It can’t harm you however horrible it may look.

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, Enlightenment, final goal, illusion, Meditation, Photography, Practice, suffering, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q347. My thoughts of doom and the resultant feelings of fear or terror have become almost constant. I am trying to overcome it in many ways, but the fear is too strong to overcome. What more can I do? Please tell me there’s nothing to fear.

A You are showing a good example of being deluded by illusions. You say that you are overwhelmed by the fear of doom. What is doom? The key problem here is that you don’t know what doom is even while suffering from the fear of it. You are being harassed by something imaginary drawn by you. Being pleased or troubled with imaginary figures, like this, is said to be being deluded by illusions, which can be compared to a dream. You are dreaming of being chased by the fear of doom. In fact, not only you but also all of us are dreaming in that we are being deluded by illusions. The reason why others don’t have such feelings of fear as yours is that each of us is dreaming a different dream. The best way to overcome the fear is to wake up from your dream, that is, to realise what you fear is.

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You seem likely to become a good Zen student because curiosity about the doom of death and illness was the starting point of Buddhism. Buddha, when young, had such strong curiosity concerning the doom of birth, ageing, illness and death that he gave up even his succession to the throne. His strong curiosity led him to enlightenment, which is to know clearly what the essence of these is. After enlightenment, he said that our life is like a dream and that we should wake up from the dream in order to attain eternal happiness.

 

What matters is not for me to tell you that there is nothing to fear but for you to realise it in person. I’d like to tell you to wake up from your nightmare instead of telling you that there is nothing to fear.

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Bible, Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, Enlightenment, final goal, God, illusion, master, Meditation, One, Photography, Practice, Religion, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

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, Enlightenment, final goal, illusion, master, meditaion, Mind, mindful, Photography, Practice, Religion, root, student, sutras, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q342. “Why can’t I feel the same way as they did?”

A. The wind was blowing a temple flag, and two monks were arguing about the flag. One said, “The flag is moving.” The other said, “The wind is moving.” They could not agree, no matter how hard they debated. Then, the sixth patriarch, Huineng, happening to come by and overhearing this, said, “Not the wind, not the flag. It is the mind that is moving!” The two monks were struck with awe.

 

Student: “The two monks were struck with awe by the saying ‘The wind is moving’. Why can’t I feel the same way as they did?”

Master: “Because you think that he said ‘The mind is moving'”

Student: “What did he say?”

Master: “The mind is moving.”

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Commentary:

Don’t regard an order to get out of a house as an invitation to go into another house.

The wise never enter any other house after getting out of a house.

You should stand alone in a barren field without any shelter to enter.

©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

Bible, Buddha, Buddhism, Enlightenment, final goal, God, master, Meditation, Photography, Practice, Religion, root, student, sutras, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q338. What does the story of Noah’s Ark in Genesis mean?

A. At that time Noah was the only person that followed God. People who, following Noah’s direction, got aboard the Ark could save their lives. So, the Ark symbolises God’s teaching to attain eternal life. Buddhism has a similar metaphor to this. Buddha compared his teaching to a boat by which we can cross the river of birth and death, and said that we should abandon the boat after crossing the river without being attached to it.

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Student: “How can we board the boat to cross the river of birth and death?”

Master: “If you don’t board it, you can’t cross the river, but if you board it, you will sink under the water with it.”

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, Enlightenment, final goal, illusion, Koan, master, Meditation, Photography, Practice, student, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q336. Every time an ancient Zen master gave a dharma talk, a certain old man would come to listen. He usually left after the talk, but one day he remained. The master asked, “Who is there?”

A. The man said, “I am not actually a human being. I lived and taught on this mountain at the time of Kashyapa Buddha. One day a student asked me, ‘Does a person who practises with great devotion still fall into cause and effect?’ I said to him, ‘No, such a person doesn’t.’ Because I said this I was reborn as a wild fox for five hundred lifetimes. Sir, please tell me the correct answer and free me from this wild fox’s body.”

Then he asked the master, “Does a person who practises with great devotion still fall into cause and effect?”

The master said, “He isn’t deluded by cause and effect.”

Immediately the man had great realisation.

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Student: “What answer would you have made if you had been in his shoes?”

Master: “I would have said, ‘Such a man doesn’t fall into cause and effect’.”

Student: “Why on earth do you copy the wrong answer?”

Master: “Because of cause and effect.”

Student: “What would the old man have become if he had given a correct answer?”

Master: “A fox.”

Student: “Why would he have become a fox if he had given a correct answer?”

Master: “Because of cause and effect.”

 

Commentary:

Everything is the gate to the enlightenment.

When you know clearly what cause and effect is,

it is also the gate to the enlightenment.

When you don’t know what it is,

it is a trap that turns you into a fox.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, Enlightenment, final goal, Happiness, Meditation, Photography, Practice, root, sutras, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q335. If everything is empty, is it important to actually attain enlightenment? After enlightenment, can you really hold on to it? Are you then walking around as ‘an enlightened being’? In my opinion, it’s impossible to sustain that experience because it’s empty. Is it a bit like trying to hold onto quick sand?

A. Enlightenment doesn’t mean ‘void’ or ‘valueless’ but means ‘perfection’, ‘perfect freedom’, ‘perfect happiness’ or ‘unlimited possibility’.

 

Attaining enlightenment is compared to a patient’s recovering perfectly from serious illness after taking good medicine. A patient is always ill wherever he is, whatever he does. He walks around as an ill being, and drinks tea as an ill being. However, once he has recovered perfectly from illness, he is well all the time whatever he does, wherever he is. He walks around as a healthy being and drinks tea as a healthy being. He is quite different from what he was when he was ill. He never wants to return to the previous state because he remembers how terrible he felt while ill and can feel how much happier he is now than before.

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The difference between attaining enlightenment and recovering from illness is that you, once getting enlightened, can’t return to the unenlightened state, while you can lose your health again if not taking care of it. Whatever you do, wherever you are, you are always in the state of enlightenment forever without any effort to stay in, or sustain the state. So, a Sutra says that once you pass the gate of enlightenment, the gate is closed behind you forever.

 

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway