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

Q339. What is the True Dharma the Buddha entrusted to Mahakashyapa?

A. When Shakyamuni Buddha was at Vulture Peak, he held out a flower to his listeners. Everyone was silent. Only Mahakashyapa broke into a broad smile.


The Buddha said, “I have the True Dharma Eye, the Marvellous Mind of Nirvana, the True Form of the Formless, and the Subtle Dharma Gate, independent of words and transmitted beyond doctrine. This I have entrusted to Mahakashyapa.”


Student: “What is the True Dharma the Buddha entrusted to Mahakashyapa?”

Master: “Mahakashyapa broke into a smile.”

Student: “Why did he break into a smile when the Buddha held out a flower?”

Master: “Because he didn’t see the flower.”





Don’t be deluded to think that the Buddha entrusted the True Dharma to Mahakashyapa.

This is not what can be neither entrusted nor taken away.

Don’t be deluded by thinking that the Buddha held out a flower and Mahakashyapa broke into a smile at the flower.

Had he seen the flower, he would not have broken into a smile.


©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q272. How can I escape from the three worlds: the world of greed, the world of form and the world of formlessness?

A. Above all, you ought to know not that you are in the three worlds, but that the three worlds are in you. As long as you try to escape from them while thinking that you are locked in them, you can’t succeed in escaping by any means.


To realise they are also nothing but illusions is to escape from them. However good or bad they look, they are no more than illusions produced by your imagination. The harder you try to escape from them, the firmer you will make them as long as you regard these illusions as real.




Student: “How can I escape from the three worlds?”

Master: “Have you ever seen them?”

Student: “No.”

Master: “Then, you are not in them.”



©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Koan, Meditation, Truth, Zen

Q42. Why can’t we see things as they are?

A. It is not because things don’t show themselves as they are, but our eyes and ears are veiled by illusions that have been accumulated since our birth.

I remember reading an article about implanting false memories. It said it is possible to manipulate and create false happy memories in mice during sleep, adding that they succeeded in creating false and happy memories in mice. The fact is that numerous information or knowledge has been implanted in us and the process is ongoing even at this moment; it will continue to our death and remain in us in the name of memory.

Memories become verbalised or are turned into languages for expression and conveyance, which makes languages essential to our life. Over time, we are so used to our languages that we can’t stop identifying words with our memories. A word always reminds us of a set memory associated with the word, which we are so accustomed to that we take words for reality. For example, a lady was so shocked to hear the terrible news that her daughter, studying abroad, had been killed by a car accident that she passed out and got sick in bed. A few days later, the news turned out to be wrong and she found that her daughter was in fact alive and could be around as usual soon. The lady was shocked and fainted because she took the words about her daughter for reality regardless of the truth. This is a good instance that shows how we mistake words for reality. In short, to identify words with reality is called ‘illusion,’ ‘form,’ or ‘boundary’ in Zen.


In our life, we not only get illusions implanted in ourselves but also implant them in others, and we often manipulate them in order that we may implant the ones that seem favourable to us. What counts here is that, when making our decisions, or choices, like whether a certain illusion is favourable to us or not, we depend on the illusions implanted in us. In a word, illusions create illusions, and we are so addicted to illusions that we cannot tell them apart from our reality, that is to say, we are trapped in the world of illusion. The purpose of Zen is to free people from the trap of illusion.

Of course, our life requires a lot of illusions and our education might mean to provide students with illusions that are thought to be necessary and useful in their future. Who dares to deny the fact that all the civilisations modern people enjoy rest on illusions? However, languages can be an obstacle in seeing things as they are, and conveying memories as they are, just as water gets in the way of a ship’s speeding up – though it is essential in the ship’s moving.

The purpose of Zen, it can be said, is to enable people to enjoy both the world of illusion and the world free of illusion at once.

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

Buddhism, Enlightenment, Mind, Truth, Zen

Q26. How can I attain a mind that abides nowhere?

A. Mind is boundless and formless. It is neither lacking nor surplus.
Don’t exert yourself to attain mind.
It is neither attainable, nor disposable.
If you were to attain mind, it would not be mind any more.
Don’t strive to clean or empty your mind.
That is to stain your mind.

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