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

Q367. I felt I saw Buddha in someone. Is this possible?

A. When seeing self-sacrificial or wise figures in someone, people tend to feel the same way as you did. This is one of the new experiences that Zen students can go through. What matters is to see Buddha inside you. Only Buddha can recognise Buddha. To Buddha, everything is Buddha, and there is nothing that is not Buddha. If you can see Buddha only in a certain person, or in a certain place for a certain time, that is an illusion. Once you see Buddha, from that moment everything including yourself looks and sounds as Buddha all the time, forever.

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However, the fact that you felt you saw Buddha in someone is showing that you are very much involved in Zen meditation because it is a very common experience in Zen practice. If you keep practising hard, you will have such experiences more frequently. This is good evidence that you are making progress. However, you should not cling to pleasant experiences or try to repeat them. However wonderful or terrible they may appear, don’t care about them. Even if Buddha appears, leave him alone. That is to kill Buddha when meeting Buddha.

 

Student: “I saw Buddha in someone.”

Master: “You saw yourself.”

Student: “Then, why can’t I see Buddha again?”

Master: “Because, then, you were Buddha, but now you are not.”

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q364. What if enlightenment brings us unhappiness?

A. Such a thing never happens. Enlightenment means to attain eternal happiness. If someone says that he is still unhappy after enlightenment, he is confessing not only that he is not enlightened but also that he doesn’t know what enlightenment is. Your question is like ‘What if eating too much makes me hungry?’ or ‘What if earning huge wealth makes me poor?’. Enlightenment means to realise that you are eternity itself and happiness itself.

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Student: “What if enlightenment brings us unhappiness?”

Master: “Be willing to accept it. That is the happiness that you are looking for.”

Student: “Why should I accept unhappiness while looking for happiness?”

Master: “Your unhappiness results from mistaking happiness for unhappiness. Enlightenment is to realise that unhappiness is not different from happiness.”

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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, emptiness, empty, master, Meditation, One, Photography, root, self, suffering, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q359. Is death the end of life or a new start?

A. It is both at the same time. Is this moment the end of your past life or the start of your future? Whether it is the starting line or the finishing line depends on your view. There is no beginning without end and no end without beginning, which is like left and right in that there is no left without right and no right without left. In fact, beginning and end, and right and left are all imaginary labels produced by you, and they can be changed anytime according to your perspective.

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Ask yourself what death is instead of whether it is the end or a new start. Ask yourself whether you are alive or dead. If you are alive now, were you alive or dead 500 years ago before your birth? If you had been dead then, it would mean that something dead became a living thing like you. If you had been nothing then, it would mean that nothing became something. Does it make sense? Furthermore, no one can deny the truth that we are part of the universe. And the universe is neither alive nor dead. It means that we are not dead and not alive as well.

 

If there is no beginning and no end, death is neither beginning nor end. When there is no start and no end, birth is neither start nor end, either. In brief, birth and death are also imaginary labels like start and end.

 

Student: “Is death the end of life or a new start?”

Master: “Are you right or left?”

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, Koan, master, Photography, root, self, sutras, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q357. How can I avoid going where I am going to die?

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett fielded questions at the annual shareholders meeting for his company Berkshire Hathaway. When asked about reflections and lessons learned in his long life, Warren Buffett referenced Charlie Munger, the 93-year-old vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, who says, “All I want to know is where I’m going to die so I’ll never go there.”

(Reference: NPR, May 6, 2017: ‘Oracle of Omaha’)

 

A. Student: “Can I know where I am going to die?”

Master: “Yes, you can.”

Student: “Where is it?”

Master: “It is where you are alive.”

Student: “How can I avoid going there?”

Master: “Don’t move even a step.”

Student: “Do you mean that I should stay here where I am alive now?”

Master: “Don’t stay here, either. Don’t you remember my saying that where you are going to die is where you are alive?”

Student: “Where should I stay if I should neither move a step nor stay where I am now?”

Master: “Don’t move at all, but don’t stay anywhere.”

Student: “How far is it?”

Master: “It can’t be nearer.”

Student: “Why is it so difficult to get there?”

Master: “Because you are going the wrong way.”

Student: “What is the right way?”

Master: “Get there quickly and directly.”

Student: “How can I get there quickly and directly?”

Master: “You already took the wrong way.”

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Commentary:

Do you want to know where you don’t die?

It can’t be nearer.

The right way to there is invisible.

If it takes even a second to get there, it’s the wrong way.

 

©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, Enlightenment, final goal, master, Meditation, One, Photography, root, self, student, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q354. What is the best wine in the world?

A. A monk named John said to a master, “I am alone and poor. I beg my teacher to bestow upon me the alms of salvation.” The master said, “John.” “Yes, Sir?” replied John. The master said, “You have drunk three bowls of the best wine in the world, but say that you have not yet even moistened your lips.”

 

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Student: “What is the best wine in the world?”

Master: “That is what you are drinking now.”

Student: “I don’t know what you mean.”

Master: “Now you are swimming in the vat.”

Student: “I am still lost.”

Master: “You are vomiting the wine now.”

 

Commentary:

The foolish, sensitive to others’ smell, don’t realise that their own dung stinks.

 

©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