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

Q358. Is love just a label and not actually the true Self?

A. The truth is that there is nothing that is not the true Self. At the same time, it is also true that everything is an illusion. Whether everything is an illusion, or the true-self, depends on whether or not you can see it as it is. When you can see everything as it is, everything is the true-self, but when you can’t see things as they are, everything is an illusion.


When you can see things as they are, your love is the action of the true-self. Then your love is referred to as compassion, true love or wise love.

A couple enjoy the sunset off the Keralan coast, India.. Image shot 01/2007. Exact date unknown.


However, when you can’t see things as they are, both you and the object of your love are illusions. In other words, when you don’t know what you are and what the object of your love is, how can you say that you love someone or something without knowing who loves whom or what?


Then you are said to be attached to and deluded by an illusion, love, which can often lead you to frustration and unhappiness.


Student: “May I, as a practitioner, love?”

Master: “I don’t tell you to not love but advise you to know who loves whom.”


©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, desire, master, Meditation, Mind, Photography, Practice, Religion, self, student, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q308. Desire comes from the thoughts we cling to. What is the difference between desire and a goal? Humanity will never progress without having a goal to grow in life, which is the law of nature.

A. A goal comes from desire. It is a concrete expression of your desire. I never tell you not to have desire or a goal in your life. As you said, your desire is the motive to develop the world into a better place to live in. You love your family, and your goal in life is to make enough money to help them to enjoy an easy and comfortable life. Love is also another expression of desire.


The key problem is that we don’t control desire but are controlled by it. And we have seen what miserable and even disastrous things it can lead us to do when our life is run by our desire.



What I mean is not that desire is bad and that you should not have it, but that we should be able to drive our desire instead of being driven by it through realising the root of your desire. When, aware of the root of your desire, you can run your desire instead of being run by it, your desire is called compassion. What Zen says is not that we should not have desire but that you should turn it into compassion, wise desire.

©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, Enlightenment, master, Meditation, Photography, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q302. Do masters still have the same emotion as we do?

A. They feel things in the same way sentient beings feel: They are hungry when they don’t have food, feel cold in winter and hot in summer. They are angry at the sight of unjust things, feel happy when seeing good things and feel sympathetic with poor people or animals in suffering. Without such feelings, how would they have compassion for sentient beings?




The difference between the enlightened and sentient beings is how to accept or deal with such feelings. Sentient beings are controlled by such feelings because they don’t know the truth that everything is empty, while the enlightened never let such feelings run their life since they are aware of the truth. How the enlightened handle such feelings is compared to a clean mirror. A mirror reflects black colour when a black thing comes and red colour when a red thing comes, but it never becomes black or red. In other words, they can see things as if seeing a movie. While seeing a movie, they feel sad, happy and angry, but they come back to their usual emotion after the movie.




©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Bible, Buddha, Buddhism, compassion, Enlightenment, final goal, love, master, Meditation, Photography, Practice, Religion, root, self, student, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q280. Why is Zen meditation selfish?

A. What makes you think Zen meditation is selfish? Do you happen to think so because Zen doesn’t emphasise compassion during the teaching, that is to say, that we should help the poor or those in trouble? Zen expresses the same message in a different way.


Zen teaches people that we are one with the poor and the weak, that is, they are part of us and we are part of them by getting people to realise the truth that we are oneness with all the universe, rather than say that we should help them.




Which is the more appealing and more persuasive of the following two scenarios, “This boy lost his parents and has no food to eat and no shelter to live in. We should help him because he is likely to become a criminal and harm our society in the future if he is left uncared for now” or “Take a close look at this boy. This is part of you.”? This is what the Biblical scripture, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ means.



©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, compassion, desire, emptiness, empty, Enlightenment, final goal, illusion, love, Meditation, Mind, root, self, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q239. If love and hate are neutral and both are illusions, then, what difference does it make whether I am loving or cruel?

A. It’s true that love and hate are neutral and both are illusions. In fact, it doesn’t make any difference whether you are loving or cruel. To realise the truth means to realise that everything is empty and feel oneness with the whole universe. Then, your feeling of love and hatred cannot help but be different from the feeling that you have had before realising the truth.

Above all, when you feel your hate as empty, your hate seldom develops into being cruel. Your cruel feeling, if or when it occurs, is not as strong or acute as before and doesn’t last long even though you don’t struggle to control your emotion. Rather, your cruel feeling turns into sympathy as you feel oneness. That is called compassion.



In fact, as many people become unhappy because of love as do those who become unhappy because of hatred. As often as not cruel feelings result from love. If you realise the truth mentioned above, you will not be obsessed with, or attached to love, to the extent that your love makes people feel burdened or even tortured rather than happy. And you will not become so frustrated by the loss of love, if it happens, that you stray from your normal life. That is called wisdom.



©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, compassion, desire, emptiness, empty, illusion, love, master, Meditation, Mind, Photography, Practice, self, sex, sexual, suffering, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q236. I was unfaithful to my wife, and she wanted to get divorced from me. I apologised to her for my misdeed with all my heart and she promised to forgive me. We, as Buddhists, thinking that everything is empty, agreed to forget the matter. However, she still keeps bringing up the matter, which leads to arguments and we still talk about divorce.

A. To think that everything is empty seems to be a good way to solve your problem. Try to keep thinking that way even though you’ve not realised the truth and your life will gradually become more stable with your Zen practice growing mature. The most important thing that you should realise now is that if everything is empty, your wife’s attitude is also empty just like your misdeed is empty. Then, your situation is not a problem anymore.

You might think that she also should see your past deeds as empty and not be so angry with you, but she should take responsibility for her own behaviour. If she also viewed things as you want her to, it would be the most ideal solution. However, if you really believe that everything is empty, why does her attitude, rude or polite, matter. If you can’t accept her attitude as empty while saying that everything is empty, you are being self-contradictory after all.

Why don’t you think of her attitude as her struggle to forgive you. Her head may have forgiven you but her heart still might not since the latter takes longer to forgive you. She, I think, is determined to forgive you since she still loves you and wants to keep your family together, but she still feels suffering from the incident because her wound has not yet healed perfectly. It is your duty as her husband to comfort and help her to surmount her suffering and become what she used to be.



Seeing others’ suffering as yours is compassion.

Seeing your suffering as empty is wisdom.


©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddhism, compassion, Enlightenment, final goal, Meditation, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q143. Is enlightenment the final end or a process?

A. To those who are not enlightened, it can seem to be the final end of Zen meditation as well as a process for wisdom and compassion for others. However, to the enlightened, it can be said to be the final end because they feel oneness or non-duality.



After enlightenment, whatever they may do, whether wise or compassionate, it is the action of the truth. They do all things without doing since they are free from all illusions. Wisdom is not wisdom any more, and compassion is not compassion any more but an illusion to them. There is nothing else other than the truth after enlightenment. So enlightenment is the final end.

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

compassion, illusion, love, Meditation, Practice, Zen

Q137. Are compassion and love also illusions?

A. Suppose that you unconditionally helped someone who is in need. There can be two scenarios.

The first is that you want to show off or are secretly proud because you think you had compassion for a suffering person. The moment you thought that you had compassion, your compassion was not compassion any longer but an illusion. This is because you created a new illusion of compassion concerning your act.

The second is that you never had the idea that you helped someone because you took it for granted, just as if you had fed yourself because you felt oneness with the other person. Then you can be said to have had true compassion because you didn’t have any thought of compassion. In this case, your kindness is not an illusion.


We should know how to do nothing, or how to do without doing. This means that we should not leave any trace in our mind after doing something, just like a flying bird never leaves any trace in the air. Everything is both the truth and an illusion at the same time. Your act becomes an illusion at the moment you label it.

So, the Sutras say that to do good without doing good brings about immeasurable merit.

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Bible, Buddha, Buddhism, God, Meditation, Practice, Prayer, Religion, Zen

Q136. What do you think of praying to God or Buddha?

A. We can see a lot of people not only pray to them but also offer plenty of money to temples or churches as a token of their faith in Buddha or God, while ignoring many suffering people who are in need. People want to make a deal with God or Buddha, just like they may bribe public officials to do something they want to be done. In brief, they take advantage of their prayer to Buddha or God as a means to satisfy and justify their greed and hypocrisy.

It is said that God or Buddha is love itself, compassion itself and justice itself and that he is so almighty that he can fulfill our prayers. Why are so many starving in the world and why do endless wars break out and disasters befall people at this time while so many clergymen, priests and monks are praying all around the world? Why does a charitable God who says, “Love your neighbour as yourself” always seem to side with rich, strong countries or people? Why have so many countries been engaged in wars throughout history in the name of religion?


I don’t think that prayer itself is bad. However, why do these things happen in spite of so much prayer by so many people around the world? It is because they don’t know whom they pray to or worship because they don’t know themselves and therefore they do not know who is praying. They also don’t know how to worship or pray because they don’t know whom they worship or pray to. Therefore, they commit brutal carnage while speaking of Jesus’s love with their mouths, and spend an untold sum of money on producing weapons while saying their prayers.

I never discourage you from praying, but encourage you to pray in the right way. In order to pray in the right way, you should know at least who prays to whom. When you don’t know this, trying to find out who prays to whom it is a true prayer.

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

desire, Enlightenment, final goal, meditaion, sex, sexual, true self, Truth, Zen

Q106. What shall I do with my sexual desire?

A. Many people think that an ascetic life is indispensable in order to practice Zen meditation, but this is incorrect, unless you are a monk or a nun.

Why don’t you consider the same question regarding your hunger or thirst? Sexual desire is also a natural feeling that normal people have, just like feelings of hunger or thirst. What matters is how to accept it. As mentioned earlier, everything is neutral in itself. Sexual desire may either be holy, or impure lust, just as hunger may be either good or bad, that is to say harmful to us. Hunger is thought to be an essential feeling for our survival, that makes life happy, but it can also lead people to a disastrous situation if not controlled. Sexual desire should be accepted in the same way, I think.


To have sexual desire is the evidence that you are alive, healthy and normal, that is, you are very suitable for Zen meditation. In summary, Zen meditation has nothing to do with sexual desire just as it has nothing to with hunger. What matters here is not whether to have sexual desire or not, but whether or not to realise the root of it. Just try to realise the root, which is the root of compassion.

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway