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

Q353. I have read the Diamond Sutra every morning for over 20 years. Is reading the Sutra helpful?

A. Reading thousands of books and the Sutras is not as good as grasping a single word out of the books you read. Trying to realise the true meaning of a single word of the Sutra is much more beneficial than reading the Sutra a thousand times.


You should know that all books including the Sutras are not the essence of the true-self but only a kind of manual that describes the true-self. In other words, the core of what the Sutra says is not in the Sutra but in you who are reading the Sutra. You should know that the true Sutra is not the one made of paper put before you, but your true-self that is making your body read it.



You should also know that each word of the Sutra contains all the contents of the Sutra. So, if you can grasp only a single word from the Sutra, you can know the rest of the Sutra, which is enlightenment. You should think that each word is the gate to enlightenment, and try to understand it clearly rather than read many books, or read a book many times. Then it takes longer to read the Sutra than before. It may take more than a year to read the Sutra that you could previously read in two hours. Then your reading is not reading any more but practice. This is the way of reading the Sutra that I’d love to recommend.


Master: “What did you do last night?”

Student: “I read the Diamond Sutra.”

Master: “What does it say?”

Student: “It says that everything is empty.”

Master: “Did you read only that one sentence?”

Student: “I read many other sentences as well, but I don’t remember all of them.”

Master: “Don’t say that you read the Sutra after picking up and eating black beans.”


©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.



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, Enlightenment, final goal, illusion, master, meditaion, Mind, Photography, Practice, root, self, student, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q269. Should I stop reading books on Zen meditation as told by masters?

A. You don’t have to stop reading books, but should not entirely depend on books for grasping the core meaning of the books. Think of reading books on Zen as listening to masters’ dharma talks. When you come across what seems to make no sense in reading books, try to find out the meaning through practice, not by reading other books.




To consult other books to understand problems from a book is like eating more food to digest some undigested food. When some undigested food remains in your stomach, you should try to digest it by taking digestive medicine, rather than eat other food. The digestive medicine means to practice.

Undigested knowledge is to your enlightenment as undigested food is to your body. Just as what we need is not more food but digestive medicine when we suffer from indigestion, so it is not more books but practice that we need for our undigested knowledge.


©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Bible, Enlightenment, illusion, Meditation, sutras, Truth, Zen

Q71. Why should we not read books?

A. Ancient masters always advised us not to read books if we hoped to reach the final goal. However good a book on enlightenment you may read, you can’t reach the final goal through reading books without practice. Masters discouraged us from reading books because reading leads us to feel as if we were approaching the final goal as we get more knowledge on the final goal. In fact, getting more knowledge is collecting more illusions and strengthening the solidity of your illusions while reaching the final goal means breaking illusions. Actually we are going farther away in the opposite direction from the final goal against our intention.

Why do few people reach the final goal though so many people are reading so many books including the Sutras and the Bible around the world? Are the Sutras and the Bible telling a lie? It is not because they are telling a lie but because we can’t digest what they mean. The final goal, the truth, is compared to a cure-all that gives an eternal life to ill people who take it. But the cure-all is so invisible that it is almost impossible to discern it. And what all books, including the Bible and the Sutras, are saying about it is not the cure-all itself but wrapping papers that can help people to recognise the contents, the cure-all. Most people mistake swallowing the wrapping paper for taking the contents, or cure-all. If we had taken a true cure-all, we would have become well instantly.


I don’t want to discourage you from reading books, but I’d like to invite you to change the way of reading books in order to take the cure-all, instead of swallowing the wrapping paper. You should bear it in mind that every single word of the book you read is the gate to the truth, the final goal. If you digest only a single word through your body from any book you read, you can reach the final goal. If you have not reached the final goal after reading so many books, it means that you have not understood even a single word of so many words you have read. You took only wrapping papers. Trace back to the root the word or a sentence you believe you understand, or you like. That is to try to see beyond the word, an illusion. This can be compared to tearing the wrapping paper. If you can see the root, you can be said to have digested the book perfectly, to have reached the final goal. Try to see the root of each word or each sentence as perfectly as possible, instead of trying to read as many books as possible. That is a kind of Zen practice as well.

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