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Q236. I was unfaithful to my wife, and she wanted to get divorced from me. I apologised to her for my misdeed with all my heart and she promised to forgive me. We, as Buddhists, thinking that everything is empty, agreed to forget the matter. However, she still keeps bringing up the matter, which leads to arguments and we still talk about divorce.

A. To think that everything is empty seems to be a good way to solve your problem. Try to keep thinking that way even though you’ve not realised the truth and your life will gradually become more stable with your Zen practice growing mature. The most important thing that you should realise now is that if everything is empty, your wife’s attitude is also empty just like your misdeed is empty. Then, your situation is not a problem anymore.

You might think that she also should see your past deeds as empty and not be so angry with you, but she should take responsibility for her own behaviour. If she also viewed things as you want her to, it would be the most ideal solution. However, if you really believe that everything is empty, why does her attitude, rude or polite, matter. If you can’t accept her attitude as empty while saying that everything is empty, you are being self-contradictory after all.

Why don’t you think of her attitude as her struggle to forgive you. Her head may have forgiven you but her heart still might not since the latter takes longer to forgive you. She, I think, is determined to forgive you since she still loves you and wants to keep your family together, but she still feels suffering from the incident because her wound has not yet healed perfectly. It is your duty as her husband to comfort and help her to surmount her suffering and become what she used to be.

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Seeing others’ suffering as yours is compassion.

Seeing your suffering as empty is wisdom.

 

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, compassion, emptiness, empty, Enlightenment, illusion, Meditation, Mind, mindful, Practice, self, suffering, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q214. My husband was once unfaithful to me. I said that I would forgive him when he asked me for forgiveness. However, we have had a lot of trouble since, and now we are on the point of breaking up. What shall I do?

A. The point is not whether to break up or not, but whether you forgave him or not. True forgiveness brings peace and happiness to the forgiver as well as to those who are forgiven.

Ask yourself if you really forgave your husband. Are you sure that you forgave him? If you are not sure, ask yourself whether or not you happen to have any concerns about his unfaithfulness and your forgiveness in your mind, or feel that you did something very big for him and that he should be grateful to you for your forgiveness and recompense you for it. If you think even a little in this way, your forgiveness is not forgiveness at all but a penalty wrapped in the sweet-sounding word ‘forgiveness’. You actually didn’t forgive him but are demanding reparation for your suffering.

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In Zen, forgiveness means to regard your husband’s affair as empty and think that there is nothing to forgive him for, and to realise that even your forgiveness is empty as well. If you can’t forgive him like this, try to see the situation as empty. Your effort to see your situation as empty will make your life peaceful and stable regardless of your husband’s reaction to your endeavour.

Don’t expect a quick reaction from him. A sick person usually takes time to return to what he was after his disease is cured. Likewise, it might take time for him to return to what he was because he still needs more time to forgive himself.

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, Enlightenment, final goal, Happiness, master, Meditation, Mind, now, Practice, root, self, student, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q213. Student: “What is the true-self?”

A. Master: “A word”

Student: “Where is it?”

Master: “In your mouth”

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Commentary:

It cooks, and chats.

It brings peace, and causes troubles.

It makes the light and the darkness.

It does all these things.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q204. Student: “How is a tree when it withers and all its leaves are fallen?”

A. Master: “It totally reveals its body.”

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Commentary:

It stands on the Earth supporting the sky and filling the universe to the full.

 

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q202. Is it okay to go on with my worldly job in order to make money, while seeking to attain enlightenment?

A. Enlightenment is to realise that everything is empty and so there is nothing to gain or lose. That means that there is nothing that you should or shouldn’t do in the world. Zen meditation is to try realise the truth.

The key point is not what you are doing for a living, but whether or not you try to realise the truth in the right way, that is, try to realise what you are when your body is not you. If you try to realise what makes your body do your work while doing it, that is good practice. In terms of that, your job can be a good gate to enlightenment. Work and practice are one to a good Zen man.

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Student: “What is the true-self?”

Master: “It is what is asking me the question now.”

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q200. How can I discard ignorance and attain wisdom?

A. Don’t try in vain to abandon one and attain the other. It’s like trying to discard the left and attain only the right. In fact, both are one when you know them. They only look separate and different from each other when you don’t know them. Try to realise what the ignorance is that you think you have, rather than striving to attain the wisdom you think you don’t have. Wisdom is none other than to know what ignorance is. Becoming Buddha is realising what a sentient being is.

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Student: “What shall I do when I have a thief in my house?”

Master: “Once you know him, he is not an enemy any longer.”

 

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, Enlightenment, final goal, Happiness, illusion, Meditation, Mind, present, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q199. I am always so disturbed by the noises of my family members during my practice that I end up getting upset and spoiling my practice. What can I do to solve this problem?

A. Don’t think of them as obstructions but as helpers. Your idea is like complaining that the wind is preventing you from finding air when you are diligently looking for air. The wind can be likened to your family members and air to your final goal. In fact, they are what you are looking for even though they look different from what you are seeking. They only look so because you can’t see them as they are.

 

Everything is the gate to enlightenment. If you can see only a single thing, whatever it is, as it is, you will reach the final goal. Your family members are also the gate to enlightenment even though they appear otherwise. Ask yourself what makes your body hear the noises and makes your body get angry. Ask yourself what they are when their bodies are not them and what causes their bodies to make such noises. Sooner or later, you might feel more grateful rather than angry with them. If you can find the correct answer to either of these two questions, you can be said to have attained enlightenment.

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Student: “What is the true-self?”

Master: “There is nothing that is not it.”

Student: “Why can’t I see it?”

Master: “Because you seek something else other than what you see and hear.”

 

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddhism, Enlightenment, Happiness, Meditation, Mind, Practice, Zen

Q11. You say we can only be happy when can know what we are when we are not this body, but is it not that peace and happiness is found when we let go of needing to understand what we are and learn to just be?

A. It is one thing to say we can be happy, when we let go of needing to understand what we are and learn to just be, and it is another to be able to just be and be happy when you are faced with unexpected and frustrating tragedies in reality. You say you let go of bad things. It is fine if you can. However, how can you let go of something when you don’t know what you are, that is, you don’t know who lets go of? We can read such good words in books but it is another story to put them into practice until we can see things as they are.

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

Buddhism, Enlightenment, Happiness, Meditation, Mind, One, Practice, Truth, Zen

Q5. Then, how can we see everything as it is?

A. How do you think we can see everything as it is? It’s very simple, and much easier than you think. We can see everything as it is if we can see ourselves as we are, because we can see things only through ourselves. I can see everything as it is when I can see myself as I am. So, Zen is also said to be a kind of a practice to see ourselves as we are. Then how can we see ourselves as we are? How can you see yourself as you are? OK. Now, I am asking you a question? Do you have a car? Do you have a house? Do you have a mobile-phone? I believe all of you have one of them at least. When you say, “My house is small but very convenient” or when I say, “My car doesn’t work well these days”, what do they mean? When you say, “My house”, it means you own a house. It means a house belongs to you. It never means that you are your house. It never means your house is you. When I say, “My car”, it never means I am my car. It never means my car is me. Am I wrong? Likewise, when we say, “My body”, it never means I am my body, just like I am not my car when I say, “My car”. Then our final question is “What am I when my body is not me?” This is the very ultimate question we should solve, but it might take a lifetime. This is a very simple question but also a very important question for our happiness. Let me ask you one more very similar question. What is your wife when her body is not her, just like your body is not you? What are your mum and dad when their bodies are not them? In fact, we really don’t know what our wives are, what our children are, what our friends are, and so on, just like we don’t know what we are. Let’s suppose I say, “I love my wife.” In this very short sentence I mentioned, I don’t know what the subject “I” is, I don’t know what I am and I also don’t know the object “my wife”, I don’t know what my wife is. In summary, we don’t know what we say when we don’t know what we are. How can I know what I say, when I don’t know what I am? How can I love my wife, when I don’t know what she is? What does it mean when I say to you, “I love you” when I don’t know what you are? In reality, we often say, “I want to be happy”. It is a very natural idea we can have as a human being. However, how can I be happy when I don’t know what I am? How can I be happy when I don’t know who, or what, wants to be happy? This is the way we live our lives without knowing what we are(the essence of our being).

From now on, you take a (long) journey for the purpose of realizing what you are when your body is not you. I want to call this a journey for happiness, because I am sure that this journey will bring you happiness. I invite you to join our journey to happiness.
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All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway.