Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, Enlightenment, final goal, master, Meditation, Mind, Photography, Religion, root, self, student, sutras, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q290. I have made it a rule to read the Diamond Sutra and Zen books every day for over ten years. Is this a good way?

A. It is said that going one kilometre by studying books is not as good as going one metre by practising. It’s because the former adds to illusions whereas the latter decreases them. The former regresses rather than advances us in Zen meditation. So, ancient masters would say, “Trying to attain enlightenment through books is like trying to pick the moon with a pole.”


Instead of spending so much time reading the Sutra and Zen books, I would like to advise you to allocate 90% of this time to practising meditation. The remaining 10% of this time can still be used for reading.



Whatever you do, wherever you are, you are practising well only if you keep questioning what is making you do what you are doing. Reading the Sutras for ten hours is not as good as drinking tea, or washing the dishes for an hour with the question in your mind.


Master: “What did you do last night?”

Student: “I read the Diamond Sutra.”

Master: “How much did you read?”

Student: “I read three pages.”

Master: “You didn’t see the Sutra, let alone read it. The true Sutra has no pages.”


©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway


Buddha, Buddhism, Enlightenment, final goal, illusion, master, meditaion, Mind, Photography, Practice, root, self, student, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q269. Should I stop reading books on Zen meditation as told by masters?

A. You don’t have to stop reading books, but should not entirely depend on books for grasping the core meaning of the books. Think of reading books on Zen as listening to masters’ dharma talks. When you come across what seems to make no sense in reading books, try to find out the meaning through practice, not by reading other books.




To consult other books to understand problems from a book is like eating more food to digest some undigested food. When some undigested food remains in your stomach, you should try to digest it by taking digestive medicine, rather than eat other food. The digestive medicine means to practice.

Undigested knowledge is to your enlightenment as undigested food is to your body. Just as what we need is not more food but digestive medicine when we suffer from indigestion, so it is not more books but practice that we need for our undigested knowledge.


©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, Enlightenment, final goal, Meditation, Practice, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q140. What should I do when I encounter a question during practice or when reading something about Zen?

A. First of all, never try to satisfy your curiosity about Zen or enlightenment by reading books. When you hit upon a question during practice or when reading books concerning Zen, don’t depend on books for the answer to your question. The books will present you with new questions, which will lead you to read more books and they will pose yet more questions. This will be endless. That is like trying to meet your hunger with pictures of food. You can not reach the final goal through reading books any more than you can satisfy your hunger by looking at pictures of food.

When you encounter a question beyond your understanding, ask yourself the question rather than consult another book. It might take some time, but you will never fail to get the right answer from yourself. So, ancient Masters would say that reading for a day is not as valuable as practising for an hour.
Remember that Buddha attained enlightenment not by reading books but by practice. When he was asked by his disciples on his deathbed how they should practice after he passed away, he replied, “You should practice depending on the lantern of yourself and the Dharma”.

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway