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

Q335. If everything is empty, is it important to actually attain enlightenment? After enlightenment, can you really hold on to it? Are you then walking around as ‘an enlightened being’? In my opinion, it’s impossible to sustain that experience because it’s empty. Is it a bit like trying to hold onto quick sand?

A. Enlightenment doesn’t mean ‘void’ or ‘valueless’ but means ‘perfection’, ‘perfect freedom’, ‘perfect happiness’ or ‘unlimited possibility’.


Attaining enlightenment is compared to a patient’s recovering perfectly from serious illness after taking good medicine. A patient is always ill wherever he is, whatever he does. He walks around as an ill being, and drinks tea as an ill being. However, once he has recovered perfectly from illness, he is well all the time whatever he does, wherever he is. He walks around as a healthy being and drinks tea as a healthy being. He is quite different from what he was when he was ill. He never wants to return to the previous state because he remembers how terrible he felt while ill and can feel how much happier he is now than before.



The difference between attaining enlightenment and recovering from illness is that you, once getting enlightened, can’t return to the unenlightened state, while you can lose your health again if not taking care of it. Whatever you do, wherever you are, you are always in the state of enlightenment forever without any effort to stay in, or sustain the state. So, a Sutra says that once you pass the gate of enlightenment, the gate is closed behind you forever.



©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q275. I am a little frightened that I may fall into emptiness.

A. It may be due to the impression that comes from the stereotype of the word ’emptiness’ that you have such a feeling. Some people are worried that if they fall into emptiness, everybody they love comes to look like a shadow or a ghost, and that they may lose the feeling of love and connection they have shared with them so far. They may also think that everything will seem to be so valueless and useless because it looks empty to them. In the end, they are afraid that they are likely to become pessimistic.



Don’t misunderstand emptiness. The word ’emptiness’ used in Zen doesn’t mean what you have imagined so far. Its meaning is much closer to freedom than to void in that we free ourselves from all the yokes of life. Having fear of falling into emptiness is like having fear of falling into great eternal happiness because you have never experienced such happiness. Emptiness is where you are from and are to return to, so that you may obtain eternal happiness. Don’t be afraid to face this unknown happiness.



©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Bible, Buddha, Buddhism, Enlightenment, final goal, God, illusion, master, Meditation, Mind, Practice, Prayer, Religion, root, self, student, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q248. In the Bible, Matthew 5:48 it says, “You must be perfect – just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” How could we be perfect like God?

A. In fact, we have always been and will be perfect forever, and there is nothing imperfect. ‘Perfect’ and ‘imperfect’ are all the products of our discrimination. How could there be ‘good’ and ‘bad’, or ‘beautiful’ and ‘ugly’, without discrimination? It is because of our discrimination that all things including us look imperfect.



To be perfect just as your Father in heaven is, means to realise the truth that you are perfect and not to turn ‘imperfect you’ into ‘perfect you’. In order to realise the truth, we must cease to discriminate, or remove illusions, and see everything as it is. Matthew 5:45 says, “He makes his sun shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil.” This is showing that God also doesn’t discriminate between good and bad.


Student: “How can I be perfect like Buddha?”

Master: “Don’t stain yourself with ‘perfect’.”



©Boo Ahm


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Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, Enlightenment, final goal, God, illusion, master, Meditation, Mind, Practice, root, self, sutras, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q244. How do I know if I am enlightened or not?

A. If you practice Zen meditation in the right way, you can experience small and big changes in the course of your practice. You can come across a moment when you feel a big unexplainable change. During this experience, feeling oneness with the whole universe, you realise simultaneously that everything is empty and you are eternity itself.



From then on, you can see things as form and emptiness at the same time. Then masters’ records, or the Sutras, read like your own stories, and you can understand them as clearly as if experiencing them through your whole body rather than understanding them with your head. Then, you have nothing to ask others since there is nothing that you don’t know. An ancient master once said, “When you are full after hearty food, you need not ask others whether or not you are full.” If you experience the changes mentioned above, you can be said to be enlightened even if you are not checked by a master.



©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q234. Student: “How can I enjoy an eternal life without birth and death?”

A. Master: “Live in the land without light and shade.”

Student: “Where is the land?”

Master: “There.”

Student: “Where is there?”

Master: “There.”




You don’t have to dig the earth for gold with your hands full of gold.



©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, Enlightenment, final goal, illusion, master, Mind, moment, Practice, present, student, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q229. I practise Zen meditation no more than two hours a day. My problem is that my busy life doesn’t allow me to practise as much as I want. Could you recommend any way to help with my practice?

A. Remove all your time lines. They are only imaginary lines created by your imagination. There is no fixed time in the universe. Time is a typical illusion. Remove all time lines and you will become eternity itself. Think of eternity as your practice and you will become practice itself. Then, whatever you may do, whether eating, talking, or working, just question what makes your body do it. That is practice. In other words, you make yourself one with the question or your practice. Then, you can practise 24-hours a day 7-days a week. You can’t stop practising.



Student: “What is the best way to practise well?”

Master: “Don’t practise.”

Student: “Why do you tell me not to practise when I ask you the best way to practise?”

Master: “If you practise 24-hours a day, your practice is not practice any longer. That is true practice.”



©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q182. What is Samadhi?

A. There are two kinds Samadhi: one before enlightenment and one after enlightenment.

The former is the state of mind that usually occurs during practice when we are fully focused on the question. Your mind is then very stable and comfortable, and you are not conscious of time passing. You feel as if you yourself were the question and separate from reality. In brief, your meditation practice is going in an ideal way, and is close to the final goal.



The latter is the state of mind we have every day after realising what we are when our body is not us, that is enlightenment. Here you are truth itself, eternity itself and perfection itself, and so no words can be applied to it. You feel oneness with the whole universe and know that everything you can feel is made by no other than your discriminating mind. You can see things in both ways; emptiness and form at the same time. In other words, you know that all illusions are not different from the truth.
©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, Enlightenment, final goal, illusion, Koan, master, Meditation, Mind, Practice, present, Religion, root, self, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q173. Where do we go after we die?

A. If you are anxious to know where you will go after death, you should know where you are now. How could you expect to know your future which is invisible, not knowing the present right before your eyes? Once you know where you are standing now, you can know not just where you will go after death but also where you were before you were born. In order to know where you are, you, first of all, should know what you are. How could you know where you are, not knowing what you are?


Your true-self is not born and does not die. It has always been and will be the same without any change forever. It never changes at all. You are eternity itself. Death and birth are only illusions. The problem is that you are not aware of this truth because you can’t see things as they are. The end of Zen meditation is to experience the truth through your body.

Do you want to know where you will go after your death?
Watch carefully what you are stepping on.


©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

final goal, illusion, Meditation, true self, Truth, Zen

Q116. How can I remove illusions that cover my true-self?

A. Even though most people think illusions cover the true-self and try to see it by removing them, they in fact don’t know what illusions are and what the true-self is. In brief, they can’t distinguish illusions from the true-self because they’ve never seen the true-self. So they are not aware of the truth that the illusions are no other than the true-self.


Whatever you think of as illusions, don’t try to remove them by force. You can’t eliminate them since they are the true-self. Don’t strive to attain your true-self. You can’t not get it because it is already with you.
Don’t think we are looking for something that is hidden in a secret place we don’t know just like hunting for treasure on a treasure island. We are trying to ascertain in person the fact that we are the truth, i.e. eternity itself. Never try to remove illusions, but try to find the root from which they come.
The moment you find it, all the illusions will turn into the truth, your true-self.
©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddhism, Enlightenment, Happiness, Koan, Meditation, Practice, Truth, Zen

Q47. Student: What are you when your body is not you?

A. Master: A piece of cake.
Student: How does it taste?
Master: Bitter.
Student: What happens when we eat it?
Master: All die.

SRH_4318a_thumb - Copy

How mysterious!
It tastes bitter and kills all.
Why do people struggle to eat it?

When all die, all illusions die.
When all illusions die, you are eternity itself.

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway.