Bible, illusion, love, meditaion, Photography, Religion, root, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q340. In the Bible, Proverbs 13:20 it says “You are the company that you keep.” What is this warning about?

A. If you are the company you keep, the company you keep is you. In other words, you are one with the company you keep. Whoever you keep as company, your company is you. Whoever you meet, a wise man, foolish man, a thief, a robber or an imposter, he is you. If he is a thief, he is a thief because you think he is a thief. If he is a wise man, he is a wise man because you think so. In other words, seeing a person as a thief means having an illusion of a thief in your mind.



This scripture means, therefore, that you should not discriminate when you meet people but see them as you or one with you. When you become one with others and other things, you can love your neighbours as yourself.


©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q334. How should I, as a businessman, accept the teaching that we should make no discrimination by seeing everything as empty?

A. It is very natural for you to expect something in return as a businessman. You should consider the ratio of reward to cost and calculate whether, when and how you will attain return for your goods or services, which is business. Not only a businessman but also even a housewife has to make discrimination in order to run her family budget efficiently and to bring up her children well. Whatever you are, a businessman or a housewife, you should do your best to make the best discrimination in your job. What would happen if a neurosurgeon should not make careful and delicate discrimination during his operation on his patient while thinking of it as empty?


Saying that everything is empty doesn’t mean that you should belittle the realities of life but that you should see the other side of the realities of life that you have neglected and not recognised so far, as well as the side that you have been accustomed to seeing. Then you can realise that there is unlimited possibility that can’t be confined by the labels attached to them.


Making discrimination in Zen means making discrimination without knowing that everything is empty. Discrimination you make while aware that everything is empty is not discrimination any longer. So, once you have realised that everything is empty, whatever discrimination you may make, you are free from making discrimination. He who knows that everything is empty and neutral is not so indulged in the pleasure of success as to overestimate his situation when everything comes up roses, because he knows that his success is also empty and neutral. Also, he is never so frustrated as to lose his composure even though he encounters a so-called failure. Rather, he can think of the failure as a steppingstone for his future success.




To conclude, the phrase ‘you should not discriminate knowing that everything is empty’ doesn’t mean that you should make light of the realities of life but that you should not be a servant controlled by such illusions as success and failure but a master who can take advantage of them.


©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q287. Why did ancient masters say that there is no Buddha in the Buddha Land?

A. The Buddha Land, interpreted literally, is a land without any sentient beings where only Buddhas are. When there is only Buddha without any sentient beings, Buddha is not Buddha any more than the right is the right when there is no left.

In fact, the Buddha Land is not a land somewhere else other than the Earth where we live but simply a non-discriminating mind without any illusions. Buddha and sentient beings are, in fact, illusions, all fruits of discrimination. In other words, when we don’t make any discrimination, there is neither Buddha nor sentient beings, which is called Buddha Land. So, one of the famous ancient masters used to say, “Pass by quickly where there is no Buddha, and don’t stay where there is Buddha.”



Student: “Where is the Buddha Land?”

Master: “In your house.”

Student: “There is no Buddha, and there are only my wife and children in my house.

Master: “There is no sun to a blind man even at midday.”


©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q277. How can I, as a Christian, go to Heaven?

A. If you are to go to Heaven you should, above all, know where it is in order to go there, and then you should also know how to get there. I am going to quote from Jesus about where it is and how to get there.


Jesus said, “If those who lead you say to you, ‘See, the kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you.” In other words, everything, whether Heaven or Hell, is produced by your mind. Where you are now is both Heaven and Hell. Whether it is Heaven or Hell depends on your mind.



Jesus said to them, “When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when you make the male and the female one and the same, so that the male is not be male nor the female the female; and when you fashion an eye in the place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, and a likeness in place of a likeness; then will you enter the kingdom.” Put more simply, this means that in order to enter Heaven, we should not discriminate. We have a very similar saying in Zen: Make the smallest distinction and you are as far from it as Heaven is from Earth. In conclusion, to realise that Heaven and Hell are only illusions produced by your mind is to enter Heaven.


Student: “How can I enter Heaven?”

Master: “Enter Hell.”


©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, illusion, master, Meditation, Mind, Photography, root, self, student, suffering, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q274. You say that everything is from the true-self. Is suffering also from the true-self?

A. Yes, it’s from the true-self as well. There is nothing that is not from the true-self. Everything from the true-self, however, is empty and neutral since the true-self is empty. It follows that not only the cause of suffering but also suffering itself is inherently empty and neutral. Whether a phenomenon is seen as a blessing or suffering is determined by our discrimination. A thing, or an incident, becomes suffering only because we think of it as suffering. Rain, for example, can be a blessing to umbrella sellers but a suffering to fan sellers, even though the rain has no intention to do good to the former or harm to the latter.



To conclude, suffering is from our discrimination that comes from ignorance of the emptiness of everything. To realise the truth that suffering is empty is to escape from suffering.


Student: “How can I remove my suffering?”

Master: “Don’t be deceived by yourself.”



©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q218. What does ‘no picking and choosing ‘ mean in everyday life and Zen practice?

A. It means ‘no discrimination’. However, what matters is not whether we pick and choose but how to pick and choose. You should not mistake it for making no discrimination and having no thought at all, which means death.

Picking and choosing is an essential part of your life. How is it possible to maintain your life with ‘no picking and choosing’? When shopping for instance, you have to pick and choose what to buy and when to go shopping before leaving the house. During your shopping, you also make a lot of discrimination about prices and brands. Your life can be said to be an endless series of ‘picking and choosing’. The enlightened also make ‘picking and choosing’ in their life.



The difference between your ‘picking and choosing’ and the enlightened’s is that the enlightened know that all their ‘picking and choosing’s are empty and illusions while you don’t. When you realise the truth that everything is empty, you come to know that both the objects of your ‘picking and choosing’ and the action of your ‘picking and choosing’ are empty. Then, your ‘picking and choosing’ is not ‘picking and choosing’ any more. Then you can be said to do without doing, or enjoy a life without ‘picking and choosing’ or discrimination.

There is a similar phrase about ‘chopping wood and carrying water before enlightenment and chopping wood and carrying water after enlightenment’.  Both the ‘chopping wood and carrying water’s look and sound the same, but the latter is quite different from the former because the latter is not ‘chopping wood and carrying water’ any more. In fact, they are actually so subtle and different from each other that only the enlightened can be conscious of the difference.


©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q185. How can I be on the middle path?

A. The best way to be in the middle is to eliminate either of both extremes. If you remove either of them, the other disappears by itself, because they exist relying on each other. The right, for example, can’t exist without the left, and the left can’t exist without the right. There can’t be wrong without right and the other way around.


However, don’t make the mistake of wasting your efforts to remove either of them by force. You can never succeed in removing them in that way because they are illusionary and not real. The only way to remove them is to realise the truth that the extremes are not real things but just illusions created by your discrimination. When we don’t think of the right and the left, there is no right side and no left side. Only when we fix one side as the left does the opposite side become the right. Therefore, once you realise that one extreme is not real but illusionary, the other extreme disappears by itself.


©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway