Zen

Fayan’s ‘Sound and Form’

Fayan was once asked by a monastic, “How can we pass beyond sound and form?”

Fayan said to the assembly, “If all of you can understand the meaning of this monastic’s question, it will not be difficult for you to pass beyond sound and form.”

Student: “How should we understand the monastic’s question?”

Master: “Pass beyond sound and form.”

Commentary:

How can there be any difference between the Buddha’s talk and the monastic’s question when you pass beyond sound and form?

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

#zen #meditation #zenmeditation #enlightened #enlightenment #zenfools #photography

Zen

Rinzai 92

To seek the Buddha, to seek the Dharma, those produce only Karma in hell. To seek the Bodhisattvas is again producing Karma. Reading the Sutras and Treatises also produces Karma.

Commentary:

‘The Buddha’, ‘the Dharma’ and ‘the Bodhisattvas’ are just names invented for the sake of teaching sentient beings and not the essence of what Buddhism says. To follow these words is also to be deluded by illusions, which is also to produce Karma that we are anxious to escape from. Reading the Sutras and Treatises also is no better than producing Karma if we cling to the words without grasping what is beyond the words. That is why the Buddha said, “Not a word have I said” on his deathbed, and ancient masters said, “Why do you look at the finger instead of the moon when it points to the moon?”

Once a monk asked the sixth Patriarch, “Who got the Dharma from the fifth Patriarch?” The sixth Patriarch answered, “One who knew the Buddha’s Dharma did.” The monk asked, “Did you get it?” The sixth Patriarch said, “No, I didn’t.” The monk asked again, “Why didn’t you get it?” The sixth Patriarch said, “Because I didn’t know the Buddha’s Dharma.” This story shows well that the enlightened are not deluded by the words such as the Buddha’s Dharma.

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

#zen #meditation #zenmeditation #enlightened #enlightenment #zenfools #photography

Zen

Q. If searching for happiness doesn’t bring happiness, then why should we seek answers in the first place?

A. All that we human beings do is to pursue happiness, to meet our desires. Even reading this writing is also a kind of act to search for happiness. Buddhism doesn’t discourage people from pursuing happiness but encourages them to do it in the right way.

In order to search for happiness, we should at least know what happiness is first of all; what it is like and where it is. However, unfortunately we don’t know what it is like and where it is since we have never seen it before. In other words, we are struggling in vain to attain something we don’t know. This is why we don’t succeed in achieving happiness.

Buddhism says that prior to searching for happiness, we should attain the way to recognise happiness, which is to see things as they are. When we can see things as they are, we can realise that we are happiness itself. Buddhism encourages people to realise this truth by seeing things as they are, instead of searching outside for happiness in vain. That is why it is said that searching for happiness doesn’t bring happiness.

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Zen

Who got the Dharma from the fifth Patriarch?

Once a monk asked the sixth Patriarch, “Who got the Dharma from the fifth Patriarch?” The sixth Patriarch answered, “One who knew the Buddha’s Dharma did.” The monk asked, “Did you get it?” The sixth Patriarch said, “No, I didn’t.” The monk asked again, “Why didn’t you get it?” The sixth Patriarch said, “Because I didn’t know the Buddha’s Dharma.”

Student: “Why didn’t the sixth Patriarch know the Buddha’s Dharma even though he was a master?”

Master: “Because he was a master.”

Commentary:

What can be known or given and taken is not the Buddha’s Dharma.

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

#zen #meditation #zenmeditation #enlightened #enlightenment #zenfools #photography

Zen

Rinzai 91

You say that everywhere there is training and there is realisation. Do not be deceived. Although something (realisation) can be attained by training, it only creates the Karma of rebirth and death.

You say you train in the Six Perfections and the Ten Thousand Practices. As I see it, they are all productive of Karma.

Commentary:

This part can sound quite confusing since it can cause us to wonder what Buddhism is and why we should practise if there is no enlightenment to be attained by practice. He said these words for the people who are so involved in practice and enlightenment that they are likely to be attached to the forms of them, so that he might prevent people from being deluded by the illusions of practice and enlightenment.

The purpose of practice is to attain enlightenment, which is to see everything as empty. When everything is empty, not only practice but enlightenment is also empty. That is why ancient masters would say, “Once you’ve attained enlightenment, you will realise that all the practice you’ve done was of no use.”

Practising, no matter how hard we may practise, only creates the Karma of birth and death if we, unaware of its emptiness, are attached to the form of practice itself.

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

#zen #meditation #zenmeditation #enlightened #enlightenment #zenfools #photography

Zen

Q. Should we enjoy earthly pleasures, such as food, or is this simply being distracted by illusions?

A. Once a layman asked a master, “Should I have meat and alcohol?” The master answered, “Having them is a government salary and not having them is the blessing of the Buddha.”

‘Having them’ here implies to have them without realising that both the action of having them and the meat and alcohol, the objects of having, are empty. ‘A government salary’ symbolises karma since a government salary is the result of the cause, working for government. ‘Not having them’ means having them whilst being aware that everything is empty, which is referred to as eating without eating, which is the blessing of the Buddha since it is beyond making karma.

In short, what is more important than whether you do something or not is whether you are aware that what you are doing is empty. You should remember that the purpose of Buddhism is not to restrict our freedom but to give us perfect freedom. Whether you should enjoy earthly pleasures or not is up to you.

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

#zen #meditation #zenmeditation #enlightened #enlightenment #zenfools #photography

Zen

Why am I not allowed to worship the Buddha?

A monk asked his master, “I had my head shaved and became a monk to follow the Buddha’s teaching. Why am I not allowed to worship the Buddha?” The master answered, “It’s because doing a good thing is not as good as doing nothing.”

Student: “Why is doing nothing better than doing a good thing?”

Master: “Because doing a good thing is not different from doing a bad thing.”

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

Master: “Such worry occurs only when you live by doing something.”

Commentary:

All worries are products of doing things whether good or bad.

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

#zen #meditation #zenmeditation #enlightened #enlightenment #zenfools #photography

Zen

Rinzai 90

There is no Dharma outside the heart, nor anything to find inside. So, what are you looking for?

Commentary:

This scripture means that we should not look for the Dharma, the true-Self in vain by following words such as ‘outside the heart’ and ‘inside the heart’ since this is to be deluded by illusions. The Dharma is the source of everything and there is nothing that doesn’t belong to it. Even we who are looking for it are part of it, and everything we can see and hear belongs to it as well. In fact, we cannot recognise it, whilst seeing and hearing nothing except it, because we are deluded by illusions. That is why an ancient master answered, “Why do you say you are thirsty while drowning?” when he was asked what the Dharma is by one of his students.

Student: “What is the Dharma?”

Master: “Why do you ask me the taste of the food you are chewing?”

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

#zen #meditation #zenmeditation #enlightened #enlightenment #zenfools #photography

Zen

Q. When we drink tea, it is said that we should look to the place where the mind arises, and that if there are thoughts there, we will not taste Zen. So, where does the mind arise?

A. There are thoughts where the mind arises because thoughts are the function of the mind. To realise where thoughts are from is enlightenment, which is to see the mind that is the root of all thoughts. You should not think that thoughts and the mind are apart from each other but know that thoughts are to the mind as winds are to air.

In fact, whatever you may do; drinking tea, doing the dishes, thinking over your personal matters, all that you do in everyday life is the function of the mind. The problem is that you do not know what the mind is while it is with you all the time. The purpose of Zen meditation is to realise what it is. That is why ancient masters would say that we should not try to avoid thoughts but try to see the mind, the root of them, through them.

When you drink tea, ask yourself what is controlling your body. What is balancing your body not to collapse? What is making your hand raise the cup to your mouth? And what is making your mouth feel that the tea is hot? Finding the answer to these questions is the way to see where the mind arises in person.

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

#zen #meditation #zenmeditation #enlightened #enlightenment #zenfools #photography

Zen

Nanquan’s ‘How do you plan to govern the people?’

At the end of a retreat, as governor Lugeng was preparing to leave, Nanquan asked, “Are you returning to your duties?”

“I am,” replied the governor.

“How do you plan to govern the people?” Nanquan enquired.

“With wisdom and compassion,” Lugeng replied.

“In that case, every one of them will suffer,” said Nanquan.

Student: “Why will everyone suffer when the governor rules the people with wisdom and compassion?”

Master: “Because he is deluded by wisdom and compassion.”

Commentary:

He who has wisdom and compassion is aware that there are no people to govern.

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

#zen #meditation #zenmeditation #enlightened #enlightenment #zenfools #photography