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

Q355. If everything is the true-self, even birds, are they nearer to enlightenment than humans because they kill only for food, not for pleasure?

A. In fact, whether we do good conduct or bad conduct is one thing and attaining enlightenment is another. You can make good karma by doing good conduct, but you can’t attain enlightenment by doing it. In other words, you might enjoy a temporarily better life as a result of good conduct, but you can’t get eternal happiness, or solve the matter of life and death.

According to the Sutras, one of Buddha’s students attained enlightenment although he had killed 99 people before becoming Buddha’s student.




Doing good conduct, or making good karma, is compared to banking money little by little, and attaining enlightenment is likened to attaining eternal life and inexhaustible wealth. However how much money you may put aside in the bank, the money will run out some day. Above all, your wealth, no matter how great it is, becomes of no use to you once you pass away.


However, we become eternity itself by transcending life and death through enlightenment, which is called eternal life in Christianity. Christianity also says that we can’t enter heaven unless we believe in God, no matter how much good conduct we may do. ‘Believe in God’ here means to see God, which means to see everything as it is. This is to attain enlightenment in Buddhism.


Student: “Can I attain enlightenment by doing good things?”

Master: “No, not at all.”

Student: “Should I do bad things?”

Master: “Of course not.”

Student: “Then, what shall I do?”

Master: “Do nothing.”

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

Master: “Do good things, but don’t let even your right hand know what it does.”


©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, illusion, Meditation, Photography, Practice, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q337. To what extent are we the choices we make and actions we take, particularly with regard to how these affect other people and the world around us?

A. What we are is the result of the choices we make and actions we take regardless of whether we are conscious of the fact or not. This is called ‘the law of cause and effect’ or ‘causation’. We can’t avoid affecting other people and the world around us, and nor can we be avoid being affected by them. We should try to have a good effect on others and to do that, we should make good choices and take good actions.




In order to make good choices and take good actions, we should know how to accept the effect from others and the world around us. This is not only because we are more influenced by how we accept what they do to us than what they actually do us, but also because how we accept the effect from them determines our choices and actions.


So that we may accept the effect from outside well, we should be able to see it as it is without being deluded by the illusions of it. The purpose of Zen meditation is to teach people how to see things as they really are.


©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, Enlightenment, final goal, illusion, master, Meditation, Mind, Photography, Practice, root, student, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q332. What does Zen meditation have to do with reincarnation?

A. All our life we try to make good causes for good effects tomorrow. Trying your best to make yourself happy is trying to make good causes for good effects tomorrow. However, the key problem is that we don’t know what a good cause is and what a bad cause is, partly because our view of it varies according to our viewpoint and partly because what we think is a good cause very often turns out to bring a bad effect. So, we can’t help being worried about what effect we will get tomorrow even though we do our best to make good causes today. Furthermore, whatever good causes we may try to make, we can neither avoid death nor know what will happen to us after death. As a way of settling this challenging problem, primitive people would depend on the gods created by their imagination.


The purpose of Zen meditation is to help people to escape from the trap of reincarnation by realising that everything is empty. When everything is empty, not only birth and death but also transmigration and souls are empty illusions. Then reincarnation that means endless rebirth through transmigration of souls is also an empty illusion. In other words, Zen is to help people to free themselves from reincarnation by realising that reincarnation implies an endless cycle of illusions that feed on themselves and reproduce. So, to become free from reincarnation means to obtain eternal life or escape from the trap of life and death, which is also referred to as enlightenment in Buddhism.




Student: “What do you think you will be reborn as after your death?”

Master: “I couldn’t care less.”

Student: “What if you should be reborn as a cow after death?”

Master: “Not bad at all.”

Student: “How can you say being reborn as an animal is not bad at all?”

Master: “Because it is empty.”


©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, desire, emptiness, empty, Enlightenment, final goal, master, Meditation, Photography, root, self, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q266. How can I be free from all past karma if causation is inevitable?

A. ‘Cause and effect’ is a rule for explaining the world of form. No one can escape it. Buddha, while alive, said that he himself couldn’t avoid it as well as long as living in the world of form. To become free from karma is not to remove, or do away with it, but to realise that karma is empty.

Let’s suppose there is a golden cup. It can be dented, or crushed when dropped from a height, or hit on a hard thing. It is dented in just the same way regardless of whether a foolish man drops it or Buddha does. This is called karma, or cause and effect.

To be free from karma is not to remove it, but to change our view of it.

People who see the cup only as a cup, without realising that its essence is gold, will get upset and disappointed when the cup loses its form of a cup, or is disfigured by any number of causes such as dropping or hitting it. Thinking that all of its value is gone, they are sometimes so frustrated that they may even give it up.


However, those who are aware that the cup is made of gold know that the essence and its intrinsic value never change regardless of what form it takes on. They are not swayed by the change of the form of it because they know that the essence of the cup is not the form of a cup but gold itself, and that there is no change at all in the essence. To realise the emptiness of things and not to be swayed by the change of them is said to be freedom from karma.


©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway