Buddha, Buddhism, Enlightenment, final goal, Happiness, master, Meditation, Mind, One, Photography, Practice, root, self, student, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q363. Why did the pagan say that Buddha had cleared away the clouds of his mind and had made him enter into awakening?

A. A pagan asked Buddha, “Without words, without silence, will you tell me the true Self?” Buddha kept silent. The pagan bowed and thanked the Buddha, saying, “With compassion you have cleared away the clouds of my mind and have made me enter into awakening.” After he left, Ananda asked the Buddha what he had attained. The Buddha said, “A good horse runs even at a shadow of the whip.”

 

Student: “The pagan asked Buddha to tell him the true Self without words and without silence, but Buddha kept silent. Why did the pagan say that Buddha had cleared away the clouds of his mind and had made him enter into awakening?”

Master: “It is because you are deaf that you say that Buddha kept silent. What Buddha expounded sounded so loud that it broke the pagan’s eardrums.”

Student: “What is the shadow of the whip that Buddha mentioned when he was asked by Ananda?”

Master: “You are not a good horse.”

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Commentary:

The pagan and Ananda took the same medicine.

The former became well thanks to the medicine,

but the latter is giving dry coughs with it caught in his throat.

Why don’t you hear what Buddha expounded while hearing what the pagan said?

Why don’t you see the shadow of the whip that the pagan saw?

You are not only deaf but also blind.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q362. Buddhism talks about non-attachment. Should we therefore try to be unattached to meditation and Buddhist teaching?

A. It is true that we should try to be unattached even to meditation and Buddhist teaching. However, it is not that we attain non-attachment by suppressing our desire, but that non-attachment comes by itself as a result of our realising that everything is empty.

 

The core teaching of Buddhism is to realise that everything is empty through seeing everything as it is. When we realise that everything is empty and that there is nothing to be attached to, our attachment perishes of its own accord. Unless we realise that everything is empty, we might be able to control or suppress our attachment for quite some time, but we can’t remove it for good.

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Buddhist teaching and meditation are like medicine for curing us of attachment. Once we get well after taking medicine, we don’t need it any longer, and our attachment to medicine disappears naturally. However, you won’t be cured of the disease, attachment, if you only keep away from medicine while you are sick. Keeping away from medicine in order to remove your attachment to medicine while you are sick is making matters worse and making another strong attachment to non-attachment.

 

Student: “How can I attain non-attachment?”

Master: “Don’t discard your attachment.”

Student: “Why do you tell me not to discard my attachment?”

Master: “Because your attachment is the very non-attachment.”

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, Enlightenment, final goal, illusion, Meditation, Mind, One, Photography, Practice, root, sex, sexual, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q 361.When we resolutely pursue our awakening, do situations arise within the illusion to deepen our practice? For example, Mara’s daughters came to tempt the Buddha, so was his attachment to sexual desire being tested? So, where we have very strong attachments, will these appear more powerfully in our life as an opportunity for us to deepen our practice?

A. In Zen we have a saying that the higher your practice is, the more powerful Mara (temptation) is. In fact, this is one of the sayings that are very often misinterpreted. Most people think that this saying means that the more your practice grows, the more powerful Mara becomes. We have this interpretation because we usually make good progress when we face a big challenge in our life as a test of our practice and try to overcome it. However, it is not true that the more your practice grows, the more powerful Mara becomes, because this would mean that as your practice became higher and higher, it would attract more and more powerful Mara.

 

The correct interpretation is that the greater your practice becomes, the more powerful Mara that you can surmount grows. The better your practice becomes, the more capable you become of surmounting Mara. Although you can overcome only a small Mara when your practice is weak, you can overcome much more powerful Mara when your practice develops. In other words, the richer you become, the larger and the more expensive the house that you can buy becomes. The stronger your muscles become, the heavier the weights that you can lift become.

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Speaking of sexual desire, not only the Buddha but also we sentient beings have attachment to it. So, it was not that Mara’s daughters came to tempt the Buddha since his practice was of a high level, but rather that he could overcome the temptation of sexual desire which is one of the most difficult instinctual desires to surmount.

 

When faced with a challenge in your life, don’t think that your practice has brought it upon you, but look upon it as a test of your practice. Then your challenge will turn into your practice, and you can deepen your practice and solve your challenge at the same time. Two birds with one stone.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q355. If everything is the true-self, even birds, are they nearer to enlightenment than humans because they kill only for food, not for pleasure?

A. In fact, whether we do good conduct or bad conduct is one thing and attaining enlightenment is another. You can make good karma by doing good conduct, but you can’t attain enlightenment by doing it. In other words, you might enjoy a temporarily better life as a result of good conduct, but you can’t get eternal happiness, or solve the matter of life and death.

According to the Sutras, one of Buddha’s students attained enlightenment although he had killed 99 people before becoming Buddha’s student.

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Doing good conduct, or making good karma, is compared to banking money little by little, and attaining enlightenment is likened to attaining eternal life and inexhaustible wealth. However how much money you may put aside in the bank, the money will run out some day. Above all, your wealth, no matter how great it is, becomes of no use to you once you pass away.

 

However, we become eternity itself by transcending life and death through enlightenment, which is called eternal life in Christianity. Christianity also says that we can’t enter heaven unless we believe in God, no matter how much good conduct we may do. ‘Believe in God’ here means to see God, which means to see everything as it is. This is to attain enlightenment in Buddhism.

 

Student: “Can I attain enlightenment by doing good things?”

Master: “No, not at all.”

Student: “Should I do bad things?”

Master: “Of course not.”

Student: “Then, what shall I do?”

Master: “Do nothing.”

Student: “How can we live without doing anything?”

Master: “Do good things, but don’t let even your right hand know what it does.”

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q353. I have read the Diamond Sutra every morning for over 20 years. Is reading the Sutra helpful?

A. Reading thousands of books and the Sutras is not as good as grasping a single word out of the books you read. Trying to realise the true meaning of a single word of the Sutra is much more beneficial than reading the Sutra a thousand times.

 

You should know that all books including the Sutras are not the essence of the true-self but only a kind of manual that describes the true-self. In other words, the core of what the Sutra says is not in the Sutra but in you who are reading the Sutra. You should know that the true Sutra is not the one made of paper put before you, but your true-self that is making your body read it.

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You should also know that each word of the Sutra contains all the contents of the Sutra. So, if you can grasp only a single word from the Sutra, you can know the rest of the Sutra, which is enlightenment. You should think that each word is the gate to enlightenment, and try to understand it clearly rather than read many books, or read a book many times. Then it takes longer to read the Sutra than before. It may take more than a year to read the Sutra that you could previously read in two hours. Then your reading is not reading any more but practice. This is the way of reading the Sutra that I’d love to recommend.

 

Master: “What did you do last night?”

Student: “I read the Diamond Sutra.”

Master: “What does it say?”

Student: “It says that everything is empty.”

Master: “Did you read only that one sentence?”

Student: “I read many other sentences as well, but I don’t remember all of them.”

Master: “Don’t say that you read the Sutra after picking up and eating black beans.”

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q352. If hand-copying the Sutras is meditation, can anything be regarded as meditation?

A. Hand-copying the Sutras itself is not meditation just like wheat flour itself is not bread. It can be meditation only when you keep the question, ‘Who or what is making my body copy this Sutra?’ just as wheat flour becomes bread only when you knead the flour and bake it.

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If you can keep such curiosity, all of your acts, whatever you may do, can be meditation. During a walk, you can practice walking meditation. When drinking tea, you can practice tea meditation. When talking with others, you practice talking meditation. If you can turn all your acts into meditation like this, you can be said to have become one with your practice. This means that you are very near the final goal. However, hand-copying the Sutras without such a question may enhance your penmanship, but it has nothing to do with enlightenment.

 

Master: “How do you practice these days in order to attain enlightenment?”

Student: “I hand-copy the Diamond Sutra.”

Master: “How long does it take to hand-copy the Sutra?”

Student: “It takes almost a day.”

Master: “You still don’t know how to copy the Sutras. You should be able to do it in a second.”

Student: “How can you do that in a second?”

Master: “Shall I show you how?”

Student: “Of course, Sir.”

Master: (slapping the student in the face) “Do you see the Sutra?”

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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, Enlightenment, illusion, master, meditaion, One, Photography, Practice, Religion, root, self, student, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q344. What do you think of Easter in Christianity?

A. Easter is a Christian holiday when Christians remember the death of Jesus and his return to life. The death of Jesus means removing illusions, and his return to life means the revealing of the true-self. So, Easter is a great lesson that reminds us of the Christian teaching that we should remove illusions and see the true-self, the true Jesus.

The Bible describes well how the true-Jesus exists in Luke 24:15, 16: ‘As they walked and discussed, Jesus himself drew near and walked along with them; they saw him, but somehow did not recognise him.’ He is always with us wherever we are. He is with you even at this moment when you are reading this writing. The problem is that we don’t recognise him, because we are deluded by illusions. The purpose of Christianity is to recognise him. To recognise him is to attain eternal life in Christianity, or enlightenment in Buddhism.

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True Easter is not a specific day of the year but the day when we can recognise the true-Jesus. Following the literal meaning is being deluded by illusions and far from the true teaching of Christ.

Student: “How can I see the true Jesus?”

Master: “Thank you for showing the true Jesus.”

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway