Zen

Nanquan Kills a Cat (1)

Nanquan Kills a Cat (1)

Once Nanquan saw the monastics of the eastern and western halls arguing over a cat. He held up the cat and said to the monastics, “If you can say a turning word, I will not kill it.”

No one in the assembly could answer. So Nanquan cut the cat in two. Later he told the story to Zhaozhou. Zhaozhou took off his straw sandals, put them on his head, and walked away.

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Student: “What did Nanquan mean by cutting the cat in two?”

Master: “He doused the people with water who were feeling thirsty whilst being in the water.”

Student: “What did Zhaozhou mean by taking off his straw sandals and walking away with them on his head?”

Master: “He doused Nanquan with water.”

 

Commentary:

A gale is not different from a breeze in that both are air.

 

 

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Zen

Rinzai 34

Rinzai 34

But students nowadays do not succeed because they suffer from lack of self-reliance. Because of this lack, you run busily hither and thither, are driven around by circumstance and kept whirling by the ten thousand things. You cannot find deliverance thus.
But if you can stop your heart from its ceaseless running after something by being deluded by each illusion, you will not be different from the Buddha and patriarchs.

Commentary:
Self-reliance means the belief that you are the true-Self itself. ‘Being driven around by circumstance and kept whirling by the ten thousand things’ means to be deluded by what you see and hear, that is, illusions. ‘Run busily hither and thither’ means both wandering around in the hope of getting enlightenment from someone else and following words. ‘Stop your heart from its ceaseless running after something’ means to stop discriminating, following words, or being deluded by illusions. In other words, running after something is as vain as exhausting ourselves by chasing shadows, which drives us away from our goal, enlightenment. So, if we stop being deluded by illusions and running here and there after something, we are not different from the Buddha and patriarchs because we can realise that we are the true-Self when we are not deluded by illusions.

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To attain enlightenment doesn’t mean to find something hidden somewhere else, or to get something we don’t have from someone else. We should know that Buddha and all the Patriarchs didn’t try to give us something new which we don’t have but tried to find us what we have lost whilst having it in our hands. In other words, their job was not to bestow something valuable such as genuine insight upon sentient beings but to get sentient beings to realise that they are already equipped with it. They never tried to give us something but rather tried to rid us of illusions because genuine insight reveals itself only if we are not deluded by illusions. That’s why masters are often called thieves.

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Zen

Q. After my wife passed away, I told my young son that his mother had left us forever and has gone to God’s house. My son wants to fight with God and bring his mother back, saying that God is very bad and should not have taken his mother away. He asks, ‘Where does God live?’

Q. After my wife passed away, I told my young son that his mother had left us forever and has gone to God’s house. My son wants to fight with God and bring his mother back, saying that God is very bad and should not have taken his mother away. He asks, ‘Where does God live?’

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A. Your young son’s question ‘Where does God live?’ is a beautiful question that is worth trying to find the answer to. When you come to know where God is, you can also find out where your wife is because she has gone to where God resides. Your child is right. You must fight with the bad god who your son thinks took your wife away since he is not the true God but a fake god, an illusion of god. The true God never does such a mean thing as taking a mother and wife from her children and husband. When you defeat the bad god, you will not merely come to know where the true God lives but also see Him in person.

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

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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.”

 

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All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, illusion, master, Meditation, One, Photography, student, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q366. Student: “At what point does a dead sheep decomposing in a field become the field?”

A. Master: “Before your question.”

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Commentary:

Why are you tearing one into two while trying to make them one?

A dead sheep was neither different nor separate from the field until you thought of them as different and separate.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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Q365. If we know that everything is just labels, why can’t we remove them easily?

A. The knowledge that everything is just labels is quite different from the realisation that everything is just labels. In fact, we don’t know exactly what labels are while saying that everything is just labels. That is why we can’t remove them easily. The purpose of our practice is to see clearly what a label is, which is to realise that everything is empty. Once we realise what a label is, we don’t care about labels because we know that they are not real entities but only imaginary lines produced by us like the horn of a rabbit or the hair of a turtle. Taking labels for real entities is being deluded by illusions, and being able to see labels as imaginary lines is enlightenment. Then, we are said to be free from illusions, or not to be deluded by illusions.

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Student: “Why can’t I remove illusions easily?”

Master: “Because you don’t know what they are.”

Student: “I know that everything is an illusion.”

Master: “When everything is an illusion, not only your question but also you and I are illusions. Who asks whom what?”

 

©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

 

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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