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

Q354. What is the best wine in the world?

A. A monk named John said to a master, “I am alone and poor. I beg my teacher to bestow upon me the alms of salvation.” The master said, “John.” “Yes, Sir?” replied John. The master said, “You have drunk three bowls of the best wine in the world, but say that you have not yet even moistened your lips.”

 

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Student: “What is the best wine in the world?”

Master: “That is what you are drinking now.”

Student: “I don’t know what you mean.”

Master: “Now you are swimming in the vat.”

Student: “I am still lost.”

Master: “You are vomiting the wine now.”

 

Commentary:

The foolish, sensitive to others’ smell, don’t realise that their own dung stinks.

 

©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, Enlightenment, Koan, master, Meditation, Photography, student, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q303. Student: “How can we describe the true-self exactly?”

A. Master: “If you describe it, you are wrong.”

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Commentary:

If you cannot describe it, you are also wrong.

What he does speaks louder than what he speaks.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q295. Shouldn’t I remove not only illusions but also the true-self since illusions are the true-self?

A. Of course, you should remove the true-self, too if you can. You should remove not only the true-self but also your mother and father. Only when have you removed all of them can you see the true-self and the true form of your parents.

 

Jesus said, “Whoever does not hate his father and his mother cannot become a disciple to me. And whoever does not hate his brothers and sisters and take up his cross in my way, will not be worthy of me.” Ancient Masters also said, “If you are to see the Buddha, kill Buddha.”

 

Why did Jesus tell people to hate their parents while saying that we should love our neighbours as ourselves? Why did Masters talk people into killing Buddha while teaching how to see Buddha? Both advised us to remove names, which are just imaginary lines.

 

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When we say ‘the true-self’, the name ‘true-self’ is not the true-self but only a label used to express the true-self. The more important a thing is to you, the more difficult its name is to remove. So, Masters would say that the more reasonable a comment sounds, the more firmly it will stick to you.

 

You should remove all names, or labels, whatever they are and no matter how important they look to you.

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q293. Is it possible to transmit enlightenment to other people?

A. ‘Transmit enlightenment’ and ‘Transmit dharma’ are very common sayings in Zen. These, however, are very incorrect expressions that can bring about misunderstanding. Enlightenment is neither a physical matter nor a type of knowledge that we can give and take in the way that we can do with gold, or the four rules of arithmetic.

 

Suppose that there is a person who, not knowing that he is already part of the Earth, wishes to go to the Earth. As a result of your efforts to help him, one day he realises the truth that he is part of the Earth that he has been so anxious to reach. You can say to him, “At last you have now realised the truth that you are part of the Earth.” Likewise, saying ‘You’ve now realised dharma,’ usually while giving a symbolic thing like a piece of writing or a robe, is said to be the transmission of dharma. The bowl and robe given to his student by Bodhidharma is a good example of this. Therefore, ‘Transmit dharma’ doesn’t mean to transfer dharma but rather to approve a student’s realisation of dharma.

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Student: “How can I receive enlightenment?”

Master: “You should have no hands.”

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q291. Student: “How can I become one with the universe?”

A. Master: “You should melt everything and make it you.”

Student: “How can I do it?”

Master: “Make yourself melt into air.”

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Commentary:

When there is no ‘I’, there is nothing that is not ‘I’.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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.

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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

 

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, Enlightenment, final goal, Koan, master, Meditation, Mind, Photography, Practice, root, self, student, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q285. Student: “You always say that everything within sight is the true-self. How can you show it to me?”

A. Master: “Am I not within your sight?”

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Commentary:

Why can’t the student see what is within his sight even though there is no barrier between them?

Instead, put up a barrier and he will see it.

 

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, Happiness, Meditation, Photography, Practice, root, self, student, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q284. How many hours a day should I practice?

A. The more the better, but you should never allow your practice to a make mess of not only your normal life but also your Zen meditation by practising too hard. In the beginning, in order to get used to keeping the question, you had better make it a rule to practice for at least an hour a day at a set time everyday, for example, before going to bed or immediately after waking up. However, once you have learned how to keep the question, you need not confine your practice to a given period of time and be bound by time since time is a typical illusion which we should remove.

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Then, erase all time lines from your mind and think that you practice all the time forever. Identify yourself with the question. Then whatever you do, your question will do it. Your question, for example, will drink tea when you drink tea, and your question will chat even when you chat. Then, your practice will go on by itself. Until you reach this stage, practice at least an hour a day and try to keep the question all the time.

 

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway