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

Q290. I have made it a rule to read the Diamond Sutra and Zen books every day for over ten years. Is this a good way?

A. It is said that going one kilometre by studying books is not as good as going one metre by practising. It’s because the former adds to illusions whereas the latter decreases them. The former regresses rather than advances us in Zen meditation. So, ancient masters would say, “Trying to attain enlightenment through books is like trying to pick the moon with a pole.”


Instead of spending so much time reading the Sutra and Zen books, I would like to advise you to allocate 90% of this time to practising meditation. The remaining 10% of this time can still be used for reading.



Whatever you do, wherever you are, you are practising well only if you keep questioning what is making you do what you are doing. Reading the Sutras for ten hours is not as good as drinking tea, or washing the dishes for an hour with the question in your mind.


Master: “What did you do last night?”

Student: “I read the Diamond Sutra.”

Master: “How much did you read?”

Student: “I read three pages.”

Master: “You didn’t see the Sutra, let alone read it. The true Sutra has no pages.”


©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway


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

Q254. You always advise us not to follow language, but how can we understand you unless we follow your language?

A. There is a well-known saying ‘If following words, you will fall into the hell. If not grasping the meaning of words, you will be deluded’. When I tell you not to follow my language, I don’t mean that you should ignore my language but that you should not follow the superficial meaning of it.


When pointing to the moon, we can use a finger, a wooden stick, a plastic stick or an iron stick. We can point to the moon even with a fork or a knife if we are asked what the moon is in the middle of eating. Regrettably, people pay all their attention only to studying and analysing the things used to point to the moon: what they are made of, how old they are, what shape they are and so on.


When I use a lot of different words and expressions to point to the true-self, my language is like the things above used to point to the moon. If you accept my words in the way you understand general knowledge, you are like a person who studies the stick or the spoon used to point to the moon. Then, you are said to follow or be deceived by language. If you are deceived by language like this, you will be immersed in illusions and even all Sutras and the Bible will become illusions.



Student: “What’s the true-self?”

Master: “Don’t follow my language.”



©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Bible, Buddha, Buddhism, Enlightenment, final goal, illusion, Meditation, Religion, sutras, Truth, Zen

Q100. I don’t understand that the Sutras and the Bible are also illusions.

A. Ancient masters used to say that a nice saying which sounds reasonable can be a strong trap. A saying or a word, however great and nice, is nothing but an illusion. No one denies, for example, the truth that the sun is a mass of flames. However, your lips are never hot, not to mention being burnt, no matter how many times you may recite the word ‘sun’. In other words, sayings or words are not the truth itself but an illusion.


The more reasonable a saying sounds, however, the stronger we tend to make our attachment to it while taking it for the truth itself. The Sutras and the Bible are very typical examples that have great sayings we are likely to be tempted to attach ourselves to. We have a very interesting metaphor for such cases that shows how we should accept spiritual teachings: Don’t look at the finger pointing to the moon but the moon itself. The Sutras and the Bible are just like fingers pointing to the moon for people who want to see the moon, but they are not the moon itself.
©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway