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

Q347. My thoughts of doom and the resultant feelings of fear or terror have become almost constant. I am trying to overcome it in many ways, but the fear is too strong to overcome. What more can I do? Please tell me there’s nothing to fear.

A You are showing a good example of being deluded by illusions. You say that you are overwhelmed by the fear of doom. What is doom? The key problem here is that you don’t know what doom is even while suffering from the fear of it. You are being harassed by something imaginary drawn by you. Being pleased or troubled with imaginary figures, like this, is said to be being deluded by illusions, which can be compared to a dream. You are dreaming of being chased by the fear of doom. In fact, not only you but also all of us are dreaming in that we are being deluded by illusions. The reason why others don’t have such feelings of fear as yours is that each of us is dreaming a different dream. The best way to overcome the fear is to wake up from your dream, that is, to realise what you fear is.

You seem likely to become a good Zen student because curiosity about the doom of death and illness was the starting point of Buddhism. Buddha, when young, had such strong curiosity concerning the doom of birth, ageing, illness and death that he gave up even his succession to the throne. His strong curiosity led him to enlightenment, which is to know clearly what the essence of these is. After enlightenment, he said that our life is like a dream and that we should wake up from the dream in order to attain eternal happiness.


What matters is not for me to tell you that there is nothing to fear but for you to realise it in person. I’d like to tell you to wake up from your nightmare instead of telling you that there is nothing to fear.

©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, final goal, Happiness, illusion, master, Meditation, Mind, Photography, self, suffering, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q281. Can Zen help us to deal with our physical problems?

A. The physical problems that we experience due to aging, unexpected injuries from accidents and illnesses are, if not desirable, unavoidable challenges that all of us are subject to. The key point here is how to confront them. Our mind is to our body as a driver is to a car. In the same way that how long and how well a car runs depends upon the driver, our physical health counts on our mind.



Zen helps us to see everything as it is, so that we can avoid worsening situations by overreacting to them when faced with difficulties. For instance, there is a saying that the unreasonable fear of cancer is more dangerous than cancer itself. This is because the fear of cancer, if not surmounted, can harm patients more than cancer itself can. This is true when people can’t see things as they are. Zen meditation, by enabling us to see things as they are, helps us to know how to fear what ought to be feared and how not to fear what ought not to be feared. For that reason, I think Zen can help us to deal with our physical problems.


©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

Buddha, Buddhism, master, Meditation, Mind, Practice, Religion, student, suffering, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q251. What is fear and how shall we deal with it?

A.Fear is a very natural and instinctive feeling we have in order to protect ourselves. Its role is to warn us of danger that has or will come so that we may get ready to cope with it. It is like a sentry. If it were not for the feeling of fear, we would take less care of ourselves and therefore be more likely to lose our lives earlier by taking more reckless actions and having more accidents. In that sense, fear is very essential and useful for our survival.


However, sometimes fear itself can be more dangerous and harmful than the danger that it warns us of. In other words, you are more threatened by your sentry than by the danger itself. This is a good instance of showing how we are deluded by illusions.


Therefore, the best way to deal with it is to try to see fear as it is by tracing it back to its root, keeping in mind that everything is an empty illusion.




Student: “Sir, I am very afraid. How can I remove my fear?”

Master: “Bring it to me and I will keep it.”

Student: “I can’t find it anywhere.”

Master: “Then your fear is already removed.”

Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, final goal, illusion, master, Meditation, Mind, mindfulness, Practice, root, student, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q208. During my practice, I sometimes feel fear, as well as joy and bliss. Is this normal? How should I react to it?

A. It’s a very common feeling that you can experience during practice. Whatever scenes and whatever emotions, good or bad, neither avoid nor follow them. They are all illusions. Just try to trace them back to the root from which they come. The purpose of Zen meditation is to realise what the root of all illusions is. It is because you are making a little progress that you have such feelings. From now on, do think of them as a gate to the final goal, your true-self, and your practice will make big progress.



Student: “Sir, I feel fear during my practice.”

Master: “That is an action of your true-self.”

Student: “You said that fear is an illusion.”

Master: “It is when you don’t know that fear is an action of your true-self that it is an illusion.”



©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway