Zen

Rinzai 72

Students ceaselessly take hold of names and phrases, and get obstructed by words like ‘worldly’ and ‘sacred’ which obscure the eye, and so they cannot see clearly. The Twelve Divisions of the Teachings are only surface explanations. But students, not realising this, take to these surface explanations of words and letters and deliver interpretations of them. All this is only supporting their dependence and, accordingly, they fall into cause and effect and so do not escape birth and death in the Three Worlds.

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Commentary:

Take hold of names and phrases, and get obstructed by words like worldly and sacred’ means that we are deluded by words such as ‘worldly’ and ‘sacred’. ‘They cannot see clearly’ implies that we cannot see things as they are, or as empty. ‘The Twelve Divisions of the Teachings are only surface explanations’ represents that all doctrinal teachings are just words that explain the true-Self, not the true-Self itself. Being lost in the words themselves while losing sight of the true-Self is looking at the finger pointing to the moon instead of looking at the moon itself. This is like thinking of the boundary line of one’s land, which merely indicates the extent of the land, as being one’s land itself, whilst being ignorant of the fact that in reality it is the land inside the boundary that is one’s own. ‘All this is only supporting their dependence’ means that being deluded by words induces people to cling to and depend on the illusion of Buddha, or God.

Student: “How should we accept ‘The Twelve Divisions of the Teachings’?”

Master: “Don’t be deluded by the words of them.”

 

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Zen

Q. What is the difference between understanding and enlightenment?

A. Understanding without experience can be said to be imperfect understanding as a kind of knowledge. Enlightenment is perfect understanding through personal experience. We, for example, can understand how to swim by reading books on it and even explain it to others. However, understanding how to swim merely as knowledge is quite different from swimming in person in a pool.

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In the same way, many people, with a lot of understanding about the Buddha and enlightenment, say that the Buddha is with them all the time, but few can really see Him in person. Regarding literal understanding as enlightenment is like thinking of the literal understanding of swimming manuals as being good enough to save us from drowning. Zen meditation is to help people to internalise their knowledge through personal experience, that is, help them to turn their knowledge into their experience.

 

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Zen

Q. Should we call it honey cake or not?

A. One day a master cut a piece of honey cake into two before one of his students and asked him, “What should we call it? Should we call it honey cake or not?” The student said, “We can’t help but call it honey cake.” The master didn’t approve him.

Student: “What would you have said in the student’s shoes?”

Master: “I would have said, ‘Why do you ask me your father’s name, Sir?’”

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Commentary:

How could he know his father’s name whilst not recognising his father?

 

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Zen

Rinzai 71

Just enter the birthless Dharma realm and play about in it; enter the world of the Lotus Treasury; everywhere, all things are without form, and are not real things. There is only the Independent Man of the Way who is now listening to the Dharma. He is the mother of all the Buddhas. Therefore the Buddha is born from the Independent Man of the Way. If you truly understand this independent Man of the Way, then you know that the Buddha is not something to be attained! One who can see it like this is a man of genuine insight.

 

Commentary:

The birthless Dharma realm’ and ‘the world of the Lotus Treasury’ are different expressions of the Pure Land, and so to enter it means to attain enlightenment. Once you enter it, that is, you are enlightened, there is nothing but the true-Self, Emptiness. ‘All things are without form, and are not real things’ means that when you see everything as empty, all things are not things but Emptiness. This is why Rinzai said that there is only ‘the Independent Man of the Way’ which is a personified expression of the true-Self, Emptiness. ‘He is the mother of all the Buddhas’ implies that all things, including all the Buddhas and Maras, are just the functions of the true-Self. So, if you truly understand, realise this Independent Man of the Way, you don’t have to try to attain the Buddha because you will find yourself being the Man of Way. That’s why ancient masters would say that the Buddha and Maitreya are his servants.

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Student: “What is the Independent Man of the Way?”

Master: “You and I are from Him.”

Student: “Where is He?”

Master: “He is amongst the grasses.”

 

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Zen

Q. Now I know that everything is empty, but I can’t see unfavourable things happening to me as empty. What shall I do?

A. To know that everything is empty is one thing and to internalise the knowledge through experience, to attain enlightenment, is another. In other words, this happens since you don’t have the faith that comes from enlightenment, direct experience of Emptiness.

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This perception that is very common among Zen practitioners can be a good motive that spurs you to practise harder and upgrade your practice. Seek to realise why you can’t see your unfavourable situations as empty in the same way you see other situations by comparing your ways of seeing the situations. That is very helpful to your practice. So, ancient masters would say, “Unfavourable things you are faced with in your reality are good masters who can check your practice.”

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Zen

Nanquan’s “Dharma That Has Never Been Spoken”

Nirvana asked Nanquan, “Is there any dharma that has not been spoken by the sages in the past?”

Nanquan said, “It’s not mind, it’s not Buddha, it’s not a thing.”

Nirvana said, “Have you finished speaking?”

Nanquan said, “I am like this. What about you?”

Nirvana said, “I am not a teacher. How should I know if there is a dharma that has or has not been spoken?”

Nanquan said, “I don’t understand.”

Nirvana said, “I have said enough for you.”

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Student: “What did Nirvana mean?”

Master: “He said what has not been spoken by the ancient sages.”

Student: “What did he say?”

Master: “He said what can’t be done.”

Commentary:

The reason why you don’t know the Dharma that has not been spoken by sages in the past is that you don’t know what they said.

 

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Zen

Rinzai 70

One asked: “What is genuine insight?”

The master said: “Entering the realms of the worldly and the sacred, the tainted and the pure, the land of the Buddha, the upper chambers of Maitreya, and Vairocana’s Dharma world, you will see them all as subject to (the law of) coming to be and ceasing to be. Buddha appeared in the world, turned the wheel of the Dharma, and then entered Nirvana. But he did not see these as the features of coming and going. Searching around birth and death, in the end you cannot attain.

 

Commentary:

What is genuine insight?’ is to ask how the enlightened see and hear things. They see all things as empty, no matter how wonderful and splendid, or ugly and dirty they are since they are aware that all of them are just illusions, which are the functions of the true-Self. So, to the enlightened ‘the worldly’, ‘the sacred’, ‘the tainted’, ‘the pure’, ‘the land of Buddha’ ‘the upper chambers of Maitreya, and Vairocana’s Dharma world’ are no better than illusions which appear and disappear according to one’s karma.

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Buddha appeared in the world, turned the wheel of the Dharma’ means that the historical Buddha taught the principle of the Dharma and ‘entered Nirvana’ here implies his death. ‘He did not see these as the features of coming and going’ means that Buddha didn’t see these as really coming and going but saw them as illusionary, namely as empty. ‘Searching around birth and death, in the end you cannot attain’ implies that if you believe that birth and death are real, that is, are deluded by the illusions of them, you can’t attain enlightenment.

 

Student: “What is genuine insight?”

Master: “It is to see and hear what can neither be said nor be done.”

Student: “How can I do it?”

Master: “Don’t follow what I say”

 

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Zen

Q. What happens after we become enlightened?

A. What happens when you have mastered the four rules of arithmetic? What happens when you have become literate after a long illiterate life? Nothing happens to the world and everything is as it was, but your way of living will be changed a lot with new capability to see, know and do what you couldn’t see, know and do before.

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When we are enlightened, we can see the perfection of everything, including ourselves, that we have previously missed seeing. In other words, enlightenment is to realise how beautiful and perfect this world where we are residing now is and that this world which is likened to the ocean of suffering is actually no other than the Heaven and the Pure Land we are anxious to enter. That’s why Enlightenment is often compared to awakening from a nightmare.

 

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Zen

Sakyamuni’s Flower

One day the World-Honoured One held up a flower in front of the assembly of myriads of beings, and twirled it.

Mahakashyapa alone smiled.

The World-Honoured One said, “I transmit the treasury of the true dharma eye of all buddhas to Mahakashyapa.”

Student: “What is the treasury of the true Dharma of all Buddhas

transmitted to Mahakashyapa?”

Master: “It is what cannot be transmitted.”

Student: “Why did the World-Honoured One say that he did?”

Master: “Why don’t you remember he said on his deathbed that he

didn’t say even a word?”

Student: “What is it then?”

Master: “How could I avoid calling you blind?”

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Commentary:

The treasury can be neither transmitted nor spoken. Don’t try to have it transmitted by being deluded by words.

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Zen

Rinzai 69

Followers of the Way, do not be deceived by teachers who everywhere say “I know Zen, I understand the Way,” and who endlessly deliver discussions like mountain torrents. All this is action that produces hellish Karma. If one is a true learner of the Way, one does not search for the faults of the world, but rather speedily applies oneself to attain genuine insight. If one only can see with perfect clarity, then all is completed.

Commentary:

Teachers who everywhere say “I know Zen, I understand the Way”’ symbolises those who, mistaking literal comprehension as enlightenment, deliver doctrinal teachings. No matter how plausible and beautiful the rhetoric is that they may use, and no matter how many Dharma talks they may make, they are making Karma that leads to hell because they are not only being deluded by illusions but also leading others to be deluded by illusions.

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If one is a true learner of the Way, one does not search for the faults of the world, but rather speedily applies oneself to attain genuine insight’ means that a true learner of the Way should try to see all things as they are instead of pointing out their faults. ‘If one only can see with perfect clarity, then all is completed’ means that if we can see everything as it is, that is, if we can see and hear their faulty talks as empty, enlightenment is achieved.

The point here is not what we see and hear but how we see and hear. Whereas all Sutras and masters’ Dharma talks are Mara’s talks if we are deluded by words, even the sound of birds and puppies are Dharma talks if we can see and hear them as they really are. That’s why ancient masters would say we don’t recognise the Dharma talks flooded around us.

 

Student: “What is the true-Self?”

Master: “You damn fool!”

Student: “Why do you call me names when I ask for teaching?”

Master: “Because you don’t hear it as it is.”

 

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