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, 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

Buddha, Buddhism, Enlightenment, final goal, Meditation, Practice, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q140. What should I do when I encounter a question during practice or when reading something about Zen?

A. First of all, never try to satisfy your curiosity about Zen or enlightenment by reading books. When you hit upon a question during practice or when reading books concerning Zen, don’t depend on books for the answer to your question. The books will present you with new questions, which will lead you to read more books and they will pose yet more questions. This will be endless. That is like trying to meet your hunger with pictures of food. You can not reach the final goal through reading books any more than you can satisfy your hunger by looking at pictures of food.

When you encounter a question beyond your understanding, ask yourself the question rather than consult another book. It might take some time, but you will never fail to get the right answer from yourself. So, ancient Masters would say that reading for a day is not as valuable as practising for an hour.
Remember that Buddha attained enlightenment not by reading books but by practice. When he was asked by his disciples on his deathbed how they should practice after he passed away, he replied, “You should practice depending on the lantern of yourself and the Dharma”.

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway