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Q271. What does the phrase ‘You should neither hold on to the meaning of the Sutras nor let go of it’ mean?

A. Holding on to the meaning of the Sutras means keeping the words without perfect understanding, in other words keeping food undigested in the stomach. Letting go of it means to ignore and forget it. For better understanding, let’s take the following as an example.

 

Buddha had a student who was notorious for having killed many people and even tried to kill Buddha before becoming a monk. One day this monk happened to visit one of Buddha’s lay students, when his wife was having a hard time being in labour. The layman said to the monk, “Please relieve my wife of this terrible suffering with your power.” The monk responded, “I still don’t have such divine power. I will go and ask my master, Buddha for this favour for your wife.” Upon returning to Buddha, the monk explained the situation and asked him what he should do. Buddha answered, “You go back to the house, and tell her that you have never killed anyone.” The monk did as he was told to, and then, on hearing his words, she was relieved of her suffering.

 

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This metaphor implies that everything is empty.

 

When Buddha said to his disciple, “Tell her that you have never killed anyone”, he meant that whatever bad and cruel things, or whatever good and beautiful things we may do, they are all empty, so the young monk’s murder was also empty. He likened her childbirth to the young monk’s murder. The woman in labour, on hearing what the monk said, realised the truth that the suffering she was going through was also empty, just as the murders the monk committed were empty.

 

We should understand what the Sutras say, in the same way that the woman in labour understood Buddha’s remark passed on by his student. The moment she heard Buddha’s message, she made it part of herself. If she had ignored, let go of the message or remembered it only as a meaningful saying, or held on to the meaning of it, she couldn’t have been relieved of her suffering.

 

Master: “What did Buddha tell his student to say to the woman in labour?”

Student: “He told him to say, ‘I’ve never killed anyone’.”

Master: “Why did Buddha tell him to say so?”

Student: “Because He wanted to teach her that everything is empty.”

Master: “You are still holding on to the meaning of Buddha’s teaching.”

Student: “Then, what did He say?”

Master: “He didn’t say anything, and his student didn’t go to her house.”

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

 

 

 

Bible, Buddha, Buddhism, Enlightenment, final goal, God, illusion, master, Meditation, Mind, Practice, Prayer, Religion, root, self, sutras, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q257. I have been a Christian for over 20 years and believed that God is perfect. Why does He make my life so troublesome?

A. If you have true faith in God and His perfection, you should not think that your life is troublesome. Thinking that your life is problematic is contrary to the truth that God never makes any mistakes since He is perfect. When He made you what you are, He had his intention. What you are is the exact expression of his intention. The reason why you think that your life is spoiled and troublesome is that you don’t understand his intention. Instead of blaming God for making your life troublesome, you had better try to know what God intends you to be like.

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Student: “Why does God make my life so hard?”

Master: “Why don’t you ask God in person?”

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Bible, Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, Enlightenment, final goal, God, illusion, Meditation, Practice, Prayer, Religion, root, self, student, sutras, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q245. How should I accept the part of the Bible, Matthew 10:37 that says, “Those who love their father or mother more than me are not fit to be my disciples.”?

A. Zen has a similar saying, ‘Kill Buddha and your parents if you are to see your true-self’. Even Buddha, while alive, would say to his disciples, “If you see me, kill me.” Here, killing Buddha and your parents means removing the illusions of them and not actually killing Buddha and your real parents. Logically speaking, how would it be possible to kill the historical Buddha who passed away about 2500 years ago? The reason why masters would use such a radical expression is that the illusions of Buddha and your parents are among the illusions that are the most difficult to remove.

Likewise, in order to see God, you have to remove all illusions, among which those of God and your parents die hardest. So, the above scripture can be interpreted: ‘Those who love the illusions of their parents without trying to see their true-self are not fit to be my disciples. Those who can’t remove the illusions of their parents can’t see God, the true-self.’

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Student: “When we kill our parents, we can repent of our sin of killing them before Buddha. However, where can we repent of our sin when we kill Buddha or God?”

Master: “When you come into your kingdom after a successful rebellion, there is no one who can judge you.”

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q244. How do I know if I am enlightened or not?

A. If you practice Zen meditation in the right way, you can experience small and big changes in the course of your practice. You can come across a moment when you feel a big unexplainable change. During this experience, feeling oneness with the whole universe, you realise simultaneously that everything is empty and you are eternity itself.

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From then on, you can see things as form and emptiness at the same time. Then masters’ records, or the Sutras, read like your own stories, and you can understand them as clearly as if experiencing them through your whole body rather than understanding them with your head. Then, you have nothing to ask others since there is nothing that you don’t know. An ancient master once said, “When you are full after hearty food, you need not ask others whether or not you are full.” If you experience the changes mentioned above, you can be said to be enlightened even if you are not checked by a master.

 

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, Enlightenment, final goal, illusion, Meditation, Mind, sutras, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q150. Does enlightenment have anything to do with gender?

A. Absolutely not. It is a very common belief that only males can attain enlightenment and so females have to be reborn as males in order to attain enlightenment. However, it makes no sense at all. That is against Buddha’s teaching that everything is empty and equal. Gender is also empty and is an illusion.

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Enlightenment is to realise your true-self, that is, what you are when your body is not you. When your body is not you, how can you be male or female? Enlightenment has nothing at all to do with gender but a lot to do with how hard you practice and whether or not you practice in the right way.

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, Koan, Meditation, Mind, sutras, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q145. What do you think of reciting mantra? What mantra would you recommend?

A. I never discourage you from doing anything. One thing you have to remember is that mantra has no power in itself at all. Many people think that mantra has a very special or mysterious holy power that can help them to achieve their goals. Not only mantra but also the Sutras have no such power by themselves. Buddha said that nothing has its own nature. However, if used in the right way, mantra can be a means of practice to realise your true-self. When reciting mantra, you should try to realise what is making your mouth recite it.

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Anything can be a mantra; your spouse’s name, children’s name, names of things you like, such as coca cola or even the name of your pet. It doesn’t have to be a noun or a single word like mentioned above. It can be an adjective like ‘beautiful’ or ‘holy’ or a verb such as ‘go’ or ‘dance’. A sentence can be a good mantra as well, for example ‘I love you’. The key point is not what mantra to recite but how to recite it. Whatever mantra you recite, just try to realise what is making your body recite it. Then reciting mantra can be a good practice, which is not different from Zen.

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Bible, Buddha, Buddhism, Enlightenment, final goal, illusion, Meditation, Religion, sutras, Truth, Zen

Q100. I don’t understand that the Sutras and the Bible are also illusions.

A. Ancient masters used to say that a nice saying which sounds reasonable can be a strong trap. A saying or a word, however great and nice, is nothing but an illusion. No one denies, for example, the truth that the sun is a mass of flames. However, your lips are never hot, not to mention being burnt, no matter how many times you may recite the word ‘sun’. In other words, sayings or words are not the truth itself but an illusion.

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The more reasonable a saying sounds, however, the stronger we tend to make our attachment to it while taking it for the truth itself. The Sutras and the Bible are very typical examples that have great sayings we are likely to be tempted to attach ourselves to. We have a very interesting metaphor for such cases that shows how we should accept spiritual teachings: Don’t look at the finger pointing to the moon but the moon itself. The Sutras and the Bible are just like fingers pointing to the moon for people who want to see the moon, but they are not the moon itself.
©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Bible, Buddha, Buddhism, illusion, Meditation, self, sutras, Truth, Zen

Q86. If all is an illusion, are koans also illusions?

A. Of course they are also illusions. When I want people to stop making noise in a room, I can say to them, “Be quiet, please.” My words, “Be quiet, please” are also noise. Then I can be said to use noise in order to remove noise. Likewise, Zen questions, which are known as koans, are illusions used for the purpose of eliminating other illusions.

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In fact, not only koans but also the Sutras and the Bible are illusions.

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway.

Bible, Enlightenment, illusion, Meditation, sutras, Truth, Zen

Q71. Why should we not read books?

A. Ancient masters always advised us not to read books if we hoped to reach the final goal. However good a book on enlightenment you may read, you can’t reach the final goal through reading books without practice. Masters discouraged us from reading books because reading leads us to feel as if we were approaching the final goal as we get more knowledge on the final goal. In fact, getting more knowledge is collecting more illusions and strengthening the solidity of your illusions while reaching the final goal means breaking illusions. Actually we are going farther away in the opposite direction from the final goal against our intention.

Why do few people reach the final goal though so many people are reading so many books including the Sutras and the Bible around the world? Are the Sutras and the Bible telling a lie? It is not because they are telling a lie but because we can’t digest what they mean. The final goal, the truth, is compared to a cure-all that gives an eternal life to ill people who take it. But the cure-all is so invisible that it is almost impossible to discern it. And what all books, including the Bible and the Sutras, are saying about it is not the cure-all itself but wrapping papers that can help people to recognise the contents, the cure-all. Most people mistake swallowing the wrapping paper for taking the contents, or cure-all. If we had taken a true cure-all, we would have become well instantly.

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I don’t want to discourage you from reading books, but I’d like to invite you to change the way of reading books in order to take the cure-all, instead of swallowing the wrapping paper. You should bear it in mind that every single word of the book you read is the gate to the truth, the final goal. If you digest only a single word through your body from any book you read, you can reach the final goal. If you have not reached the final goal after reading so many books, it means that you have not understood even a single word of so many words you have read. You took only wrapping papers. Trace back to the root the word or a sentence you believe you understand, or you like. That is to try to see beyond the word, an illusion. This can be compared to tearing the wrapping paper. If you can see the root, you can be said to have digested the book perfectly, to have reached the final goal. Try to see the root of each word or each sentence as perfectly as possible, instead of trying to read as many books as possible. That is a kind of Zen practice as well.

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway.