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

Q337. To what extent are we the choices we make and actions we take, particularly with regard to how these affect other people and the world around us?

A. What we are is the result of the choices we make and actions we take regardless of whether we are conscious of the fact or not. This is called ‘the law of cause and effect’ or ‘causation’. We can’t avoid affecting other people and the world around us, and nor can we be avoid being affected by them. We should try to have a good effect on others and to do that, we should make good choices and take good actions.

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In order to make good choices and take good actions, we should know how to accept the effect from others and the world around us. This is not only because we are more influenced by how we accept what they do to us than what they actually do us, but also because how we accept the effect from them determines our choices and actions.

 

So that we may accept the effect from outside well, we should be able to see it as it is without being deluded by the illusions of it. The purpose of Zen meditation is to teach people how to see things as they really are.

 

©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.

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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, illusion, Koan, master, Meditation, Photography, self, student, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q333. Student: “What is not changing when everything, including mountains and rivers, changes?”

A. Master: “Mountains and rivers.”

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Commentary:

Master’s tongue is not long enough to say the answer.

You had better hear him with your eyes.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q332. What does Zen meditation have to do with reincarnation?

A. All our life we try to make good causes for good effects tomorrow. Trying your best to make yourself happy is trying to make good causes for good effects tomorrow. However, the key problem is that we don’t know what a good cause is and what a bad cause is, partly because our view of it varies according to our viewpoint and partly because what we think is a good cause very often turns out to bring a bad effect. So, we can’t help being worried about what effect we will get tomorrow even though we do our best to make good causes today. Furthermore, whatever good causes we may try to make, we can neither avoid death nor know what will happen to us after death. As a way of settling this challenging problem, primitive people would depend on the gods created by their imagination.

 

The purpose of Zen meditation is to help people to escape from the trap of reincarnation by realising that everything is empty. When everything is empty, not only birth and death but also transmigration and souls are empty illusions. Then reincarnation that means endless rebirth through transmigration of souls is also an empty illusion. In other words, Zen is to help people to free themselves from reincarnation by realising that reincarnation implies an endless cycle of illusions that feed on themselves and reproduce. So, to become free from reincarnation means to obtain eternal life or escape from the trap of life and death, which is also referred to as enlightenment in Buddhism.

 

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Student: “What do you think you will be reborn as after your death?”

Master: “I couldn’t care less.”

Student: “What if you should be reborn as a cow after death?”

Master: “Not bad at all.”

Student: “How can you say being reborn as an animal is not bad at all?”

Master: “Because it is empty.”

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, Meditation, Photography, Practice, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q331. What is Samsara, reincarnation?

A. I have talked to you before about the world of memory, the realm of form and the world beyond memory, the realm of emptiness. Reincarnation is another expression of how the realm of form, full of endless causation, works.

 

As long as we are in the realm of form, we can’t avoid being subject to the law of cause and effect. There are always a start and an end, appearance and disappearance, which have their causes and effects. There is no start without an end and no end without a start, and each start and end has its cause and effect. There is no effect without cause and vice versa. What you are now is the effect of what you did yesterday, and how you live today determines what you will be tomorrow.

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In brief, our life of today is the effect of yesterday and the cause of tomorrow at the same time. One step further, our present life is the result of our previous life and the cause of our future life, the life after death. In other words, we can’t avoid making cause and effect even for a moment forever. Birth and death is also part of endless causation. To conclude, reincarnation implies an endless cycle of causation, which is called the trap of causation as well.

 

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, illusion, master, Meditation, Photography, student, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q330. Student: “Where is the land without light and shade?”

A. Master: “That’s where light and shade is.”

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Commentary:

Light and shade is no other than the land without light and shade.

 

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, Enlightenment, final goal, Photography, root, self, suffering, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q329. Why does Zen compare us sentient beings to a patient?

A. As soon as we are born, we are all doomed to an incurable illness, ageing, which leads to death, that no one can avoid. While we have many kinds of painkillers for the illness, there is no medicine to cure it. Whenever we feel the pain of hunger, we take a painkiller, food.

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However, over the course of time, the illness worsens to the extent that no painkiller can help us, and leads us to death in the end. Therefore, we sentient beings are compared to a patient. The purpose of Zen is to help people to be cured of the fatal illness, ageing. So, ancient masters would refer to enlightenment as the solution to the matter of birth and death.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, illusion, Meditation, moment, present, root, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q328. Is everything empty because it is always changing and not everlasting?

A. Absolutely not. Everything is empty not because it is always changing and not everlasting but because it doesn’t have its own fixed nature unless you grant it labels such as hard, soft, fragile, flexible et cetera. Emptiness is the state without any label or imaginary line, where there is no time.

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Time is a typical imaginary line. When there is no time, no change can take place since change means the passage of time. When there is no change, there is no life and death. Therefore, when you experience the truth that you are emptiness itself, you are said to escape from the yoke of life and death.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q327. Student: “How can I keep my plot of mind free from light and shade?”

A. Master: “Telling you the way is very easy. But I am afraid that I may induce you to make light and shade.”

Student: “Please, tell me the way.”

Master: “Everything is empty.”

Student: “I already know that, too.”

Master: “That is making light and shade in your plot.”

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Commentary:

However efficacious medicine may be, an internal medicine will cause trouble if put into eyes or ears.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, Enlightenment, final goal, illusion, Meditation, moment, now, Practice, root, self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q326. Should we see worldly life as an illusion and abandon, or be indifferent to it in order to attain enlightenment?

A. The purpose of Zen meditation is not to make people belittle, become indifferent to, or abandon worldly life but to help them to realise the truth that the realities of the life they are facing every day is no other than the heaven or the paradise they dream of. If you happen to have the slightest thought that, after enlightenment, you may be someone else, or somewhere else, other than exactly where you are now, you are far from the right way of practice.

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Zen is telling us why we can’t see and how we can see the paradise that is spread out before us.  We can’t see it since our views are clouded by labels, which are called illusions. Zen doesn’t tell people to make light of or abandon worldly life, but advises them to try to see beyond the labels of worldly life and teaches how to do it. Zen encourages people to enjoy the eternal happiness that they have not recognised so far. To try to see beyond the labels when seeing things is Zen practice.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway