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

Q319. Many people say that they know what enlightenment is and that their way is the true way. How can we tell if a teacher is really enlightened or not?

A. It is true that it is almost impossible for unenlightened people to tell whether a teacher is enlightened or not. Only the enlightened have an eye for the enlightened, just like only those who know maths can tell if a maths teacher has real capacity. However, I am going to tell you a few essential requirements that I think a teacher should be equipped with as a teacher, regardless of whether he is enlightened or not.

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A teacher should:

  1. Be able to give you a clear definition about what enlightenment, the final goal is.
  2. Be able to give you a persuasive explanation about what his way of practice has to do with enlightenment, or why you should practice in his way.
  3. Be able to give you sufficient Dharma talks explaining the True-self and how to see it in detail.
  4. Welcome all your questions and give you satisfactory answers to them.

 

If someone satisfies all these conditions, he is worth following as a teacher, I think.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q292. During practice I can keep my mind silent without any thoughts but I can neither stop thinking nor keep my mind calm when not practising.

A. Trying to keep your mind calm by stopping thoughts from arising without knowing where they are from, is like trying to remove weeds by cutting their leaves, while leaving their roots intact. Just as you will be bothered again by new weeds from the remaining roots sooner or later, so you cannot get permanent calmness without realising the root of your thoughts, or illusions. Then, the silent state with no thoughts becomes another illusion.

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Masters’ words “keep your mind calm by stopping thinking” has two meanings: One is before enlightenment and the other is after enlightenment. The former is to have less thoughts by focusing all your attention to your question. The latter, the end of Zen, doesn’t mean literally to stop thinking but not to be deluded by thoughts through realising the truth that everything is empty. Once realising the truth, your mind becomes calm by itself regardless of whether you think or not, because you are not deluded by your thoughts. Masters would say, “You may have as many weeds as you want, but never let them take root.” Then you can enjoy calmness all the time no matter how many thoughts you may have because you are aware that they are empty.

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q286. Masters tell us to discard our ‘I’. How can I do it?

A. They mean that you should eliminate the illusions of you, that is, all the labels attached to you, or all the words used to describe your identity. This is because all suffering is from your mistaking the labels attached to you as you and at the same time being attached to them.

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When you are deluded by labels, like this, they are referred to as illusions. The final goal of Zen is to realise that labels are not real but only imaginary lines and to see what you are like free from labels. That is called seeing your true-self, or attaining enlightenment.

 

Student: “How can I discard my ‘I’?”

Master: “You should know that all you believe to be you is not you but just an illusion.”

 

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, Enlightenment, master, Meditation, Practice, Religion, root, self, student, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q259. How can I grasp the core meaning of the Sutras?

A. What do you think the core teaching of the Sutras is? It is enlightenment. What all the Sutras say is nothing but how to attain enlightenment and what enlightenment is like, nothing else. If you are to grasp the core teaching of Buddha, don’t look for it in the Sutras. The Sutras are only like a map or an arrow pointing to your destination. They are not the place itself that you want to reach.

 

Don’t think of Zen meditation as being apart from the Sutras. Zen meditation is an expedient means to grasp the core teaching of the Sutras. The Sutras are maps and Zen is to move towards the destination indicated by the maps. So, the best way to grasp the core meaning of the Sutras is to experience what the Sutras say through practice.

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Student: “How can I grasp the core meaning of the Sutras?”

Master: “Discard all the Sutras.”

 

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, Enlightenment, final goal, illusion, Koan, master, Meditation, mindfulness, Practice, root, student, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q258. Master: “When a guest comes, you should take care of him, but when a thief comes, you should turn him away.”

A. Student: “What is a guest?”

Master: “Just passed by.”

Student: “What is a thief?”

Master: “A guest.”

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Commentary:

What you think is a guest is a thief, and what you think is a thief is a guest.

 

©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, sutras, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q257. I have been a Christian for over 20 years and believed that God is perfect. Why does He make my life so troublesome?

A. If you have true faith in God and His perfection, you should not think that your life is troublesome. Thinking that your life is problematic is contrary to the truth that God never makes any mistakes since He is perfect. When He made you what you are, He had his intention. What you are is the exact expression of his intention. The reason why you think that your life is spoiled and troublesome is that you don’t understand his intention. Instead of blaming God for making your life troublesome, you had better try to know what God intends you to be like.

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Student: “Why does God make my life so hard?”

Master: “Why don’t you ask God in person?”

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q256. What does ‘being like a mirror’ mean?

A. An ancient master said, “Everybody has a mirror. An unenlightened person’s life is like a monkey looking in a mirror, but an enlightened person’s is like a mirror looking at a monkey.” A monkey, when looking in a mirror, mistakes its reflection as another monkey and tries in vain to do something with it. However, a mirror, when something or someone is before it, just reflects the thing or the person as it is or as they are. It neither names, evaluates nor loves or hates it or them. In other words, it never discriminates. So, ‘being like a mirror’ represents the undiscriminating mind of the enlightened.

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Student: “How do you feel when you are like a mirror?”

Master: “I become a big liar if I answer your question.”

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q255. Student: “How can I distinguish the true-self from an illusion?”

A. Master: “What you think is the true-self is an illusion and what you think is an illusion is the true-self.”

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Commentary:

Both the true-self and an illusion are illusions.

It is the true-self that tries to distinguish the true-self from an illusion.

 

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, Enlightenment, illusion, master, Meditation, Mind, Photography, Practice, present, student, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q253. What is the best posture for Zen meditation?

A. There is no fixed best posture for Zen meditation even though sitting upright is commonly said to be the best posture, especially for novices. The best posture is the posture that can enable you to focus all your attention to your question.

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Student: “What is the best posture for Zen practice?”

Master: “Don’t sit. Don’t stand. Don’t lie down.”

Student: “What posture shall I take then?”

Master: “Any posture that helps you focus on the question is the best because your true-self neither sits, lies, nor stands.”

 

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q252. Student: “What is Buddha?”

A. Master: “It’s in the Buddha hall.”

Student: “Isn’t it just a statue made of clay?”

Master: “Yes, it is.”

Student: “What is Buddha then?”

Master: “It’s in the Buddha hall.”

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Commentary:

It is a top secret.

Keep away all your acquaintances when looking and listening.

Look and listen by yourself.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway