Questions & Koans

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Q. What is the right faith?

Q. What is the right faith?

A. People, not believing in the people around them such as their parents, friends, neighbours and so on, have a strong belief in Buddha, or God which they have never seen and can’t see, offering handsome donations. What is more interesting is that people never think that they were cheated by Buddha, or God when their prayers don’t come true, whilst they feel betrayed when people do not do as they want them to; refuse their requests for favours, or don’t keep their promises. When they fail to get their rewards from praying to Buddha or God, they blame themselves, ascribing failure to their scant prayer, rather than blame God, or Buddha. All these are the results of blind faith which happens when we don’t know what we believe in. This is far from the right faith.

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The Bible says that we should love our neighbours as ourselves. The Sutras say that we are all Buddha and that there is nothing that is not Buddha.
The right faith is to love and respect people in the same way as we worship God, or Buddha and give the same faith to them as you give to God, or Buddha.

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Yunyan’s “Not a Single Word”

Yunyan’s “Not a Single Word”

One day Yunyan said to the assembly, “There is a child in this household. If you ask a question, there is nothing he can’t answer.”
Dongshan Liangjie then asked, “How large a library does he have?”
Yunyan said, “Not a single word.” Dongshan said, “Then how come he is so learned?” Yunyan said, “He does not sleep day or night.” Dongshan said, “If we ask him about the single matter, can we get a response?”
Yunyan said, “Although he can speak, he won’t answer.”

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Student: “Who is the child?”
Master: “Look at him directly now.”
Student: “Why can’t I see him now?”
Master: “You don’t recognise him since you have neglected him for a long time.”
Student: “Why won’t he answer although he can speak?”
Master: “Because he speaks what can’t be spoken.”
Student: “How does he speak what can’t be spoken?”
Master: “You, too, are doing it now.”

Commentary:
Whenever you speak, he speaks.
Don’t beg others for charity while throwing away your money.

©Boo Ahm

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Hsin Shin Ming: “71. The Way is beyond words, words never could, cannot now, and never will describe the Way.”

Hsin Shin Ming: “71. The Way is beyond words, words never could, cannot now, and never will describe the Way.”

A lot of words have been used to explain the Way, but the essence of the Way is not in the words. We should realise what is beyond the words that the words are pointing to. The words are like a finger pointing to the moon, or like a map showing how to reach our destination. We should not mistake the tip of the finger for the moon, nor should we think that our destination is on the map. Following the words, no matter how great and meaningful they sound, is being deluded by illusions. So, ancient masters would say, “If we follow the words, even the Sutras, Buddha’s teaching is no more than Mara’s talk.”

Student: “What happens if a person realises a Sutra beyond the words?”
Master: “He will get the real Sutra.”
Student: “What is the real Sutra?”
Master: “The whole universe is.”

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Q. Why did Jesus pass away instead of avoiding it by performing a miracle?

Q. Why did Jesus pass away instead of avoiding it by performing a miracle?

A. If you think that he passed away by being crucified, why do you still believe in him who does not exist anymore? If you think that he didn’t pass away even though he was crucified, that was no other than a miracle. As far as I know, all Christians believe that although he appeared to pass away by being crucified, he didn’t actually die in essence because he is eternity itself. Otherwise, how would they believe in what is dead?

What matters now is how to feel and see him who is not dead. If you can’t feel and see him now, he is no better than dead to you. If you can see him anywhere anytime, it means that you are in the same world with him, which is referred to as the Kingdom of Heaven.

©Boo Ahm

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Isan kicked the bottle

Isan kicked the bottle

During his stay under Master Hyakujo, Isan was a monk responsible for cooking. When Master Hyakujo wished to send a monk to found a new monastery, he told the chief monk and all other monks that he would choose the one who would demonstrate himself as the best among them. Then Master Hyakujo brought out a water bottle, put it down and said, “You cannot call it a water bottle. Then, what will you call it?” The chief monk said, “One cannot call it a wooden stick.” Then, when Master Hyakujo turned to Isan, Isan kicked the bottle and walked away. Master Hyakujo laughed and said, “The chief monk lost to Isan.” He made Isan the founder of the new monastery.

Student: “Why did the master send Isan to found the new monastery although he just kicked the bottle without saying a word?”
Master: “Because his action was louder than the chief monk’s words.”

Commentary:
Isan showed how to deal with the universe whereas the chief monk talked only about the water bottle.

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Hsin Shin Ming: “70. Faith is non-dual and non-duality is faith.”

Hsin Shin Ming: “70. Faith is non-dual and non-duality is faith.”

When you don’t know the object of your faith, you believe in Buddha without knowing what He is, which is duality since there is you the believer and there is the Buddha, the object of your faith. Believing that you are separate and different from Buddha means that you are still being deluded by the illusion of Buddha. Put in another way, to worship Buddha without seeing Him is to be enslaved by an illusion created by your imagination.

However, when you realise that you are one with Buddha, the true-Self, you become faith itself. Then, faith is non-dual. This is true faith. You should remember that the purpose of Buddhism is not to teach people how to ask Buddha for help but to teach them that they are Buddha itself. So, the faith you can have is not true faith, but the faith that is you is true faith.

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Q. If everything is an empty illusion, is the experience of the true-Self an illusion? If so, why should we try to have it?

Q. If everything is an empty illusion, is the experience of the true-Self an illusion? If so, why should we try to have it?

A. Your comment is like saying, “They say that an apple is sweet. We don’t need to try an apple in order to know its taste since we know that it is sweet.” The knowledge that an apple is sweet is quite different from experiencing its taste by eating it. The expression that an apple is sweet is not wrong but far from an exact description of it. In fact, there are many more tastes and feelings in an apple which are beyond description that we can feel only when we try it. Only after you try an apple can you know what it means to say that an apple is sweet.

Likewise, not until you experience the words ‘everything is an illusion’ can you know the meaning of ‘illusion’ in Buddhism. Following the words ‘everything is an illusion’ only literally without experiencing it is no other than being deluded by illusions.

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Why did the ancient master say that he would beat the holy Buddha to death?

Why did the ancient master say that he would beat the holy Buddha to death?

When Buddha was born, he said, “In the whole universe only I exist.” About this, an ancient master commented, “If I had seen him doing so, I would have beaten him to death and have thrown him to hungry dogs.”

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Student: “Why did the ancient master say that he would beat the holy Buddha to death?”
Master: “Because what you can beat to death is not Buddha.”

Commentary:
When you have beaten Buddha to death, He will reveal himself smiling before your eyes.

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Hsin Shin Ming: “69. If you can be like this, you don’t have to worry about attaining enlightenment.”

Hsin Shin Ming: “69. If you can be like this, you don’t have to worry about attaining enlightenment.”

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‘If you can be like this’ means ‘If you can be like what has been explained so far’. To rephrase, if you can see and hear things without discriminating, if you know what you are when your body is not you, if you can see things as they are, if you can many as one, if you can see yourself as one with everything, if you can see everything as equal, if you can see everything as neutral, if you can see everything as empty, if you are not deluded by words, if you can see only a single thing as it is, and if you hear only a single word or a sound as it is, then, you don’t have to worry about attaining enlightenment because that is no other than enlightenment.

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Q, What does ‘a monkey before a mirror’ mean?

Q, What does ‘a monkey before a mirror’ mean?

A. This is a phrase used to express the difference between the enlightened and sentient beings. Sentient beings are said to see the world like a monkey seeing the reflections in a mirror. It is deluded by the reflections. It, mistaking the reflections of fruits for real fruits, tries to get them. It, seeing its own reflection as another monkey, tries to attack it. This shows that sentient beings are deluded by illusions just as a monkey is deluded by the reflections in a mirror.

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The enlightened are said to see the world like a mirror seeing a monkey. Whatever things may come before a mirror, the mirror just reflects them as they are and never discriminates them. No matter how attractive a lady stands in front of it, it never thinks of her as attractive or beautiful but just reflects her as she is. Even though an ugly thing is put before it, it never regards it as ugly but just reflects it as it is. This is the way the enlightened see the world.

So, it is said that sentient beings see the world like a monkey seeing a mirror but the enlightened see the world like a mirror seeing a monkey.

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