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

Q332. What does Zen meditation have to do with reincarnation?

A. All our life we try to make good causes for good effects tomorrow. Trying your best to make yourself happy is trying to make good causes for good effects tomorrow. However, the key problem is that we don’t know what a good cause is and what a bad cause is, partly because our view of it varies according to our viewpoint and partly because what we think is a good cause very often turns out to bring a bad effect. So, we can’t help being worried about what effect we will get tomorrow even though we do our best to make good causes today. Furthermore, whatever good causes we may try to make, we can neither avoid death nor know what will happen to us after death. As a way of settling this challenging problem, primitive people would depend on the gods created by their imagination.


The purpose of Zen meditation is to help people to escape from the trap of reincarnation by realising that everything is empty. When everything is empty, not only birth and death but also transmigration and souls are empty illusions. Then reincarnation that means endless rebirth through transmigration of souls is also an empty illusion. In other words, Zen is to help people to free themselves from reincarnation by realising that reincarnation implies an endless cycle of illusions that feed on themselves and reproduce. So, to become free from reincarnation means to obtain eternal life or escape from the trap of life and death, which is also referred to as enlightenment in Buddhism.




Student: “What do you think you will be reborn as after your death?”

Master: “I couldn’t care less.”

Student: “What if you should be reborn as a cow after death?”

Master: “Not bad at all.”

Student: “How can you say being reborn as an animal is not bad at all?”

Master: “Because it is empty.”


©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, Meditation, Photography, Practice, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q331. What is Samsara, reincarnation?

A. I have talked to you before about the world of memory, the realm of form and the world beyond memory, the realm of emptiness. Reincarnation is another expression of how the realm of form, full of endless causation, works.


As long as we are in the realm of form, we can’t avoid being subject to the law of cause and effect. There are always a start and an end, appearance and disappearance, which have their causes and effects. There is no start without an end and no end without a start, and each start and end has its cause and effect. There is no effect without cause and vice versa. What you are now is the effect of what you did yesterday, and how you live today determines what you will be tomorrow.




In brief, our life of today is the effect of yesterday and the cause of tomorrow at the same time. One step further, our present life is the result of our previous life and the cause of our future life, the life after death. In other words, we can’t avoid making cause and effect even for a moment forever. Birth and death is also part of endless causation. To conclude, reincarnation implies an endless cycle of causation, which is called the trap of causation as well.



©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddhism, Koan, Meditation, Mind, Truth, Zen

Q27. Can’t people move away from the wrong doings of former lives?

A. What do you think your former life is? Yesterday was your former life and tomorrow is your future life. Suppose you had no meal yesterday. Now you can’t move away from feeling very hungry, but whether you will continue to be hungry, or not, depends on whether you eat food now or not. Every moment is not just the result of your former life but also the cause of your future life.

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What counts here is that how you accept the result of your former life determines your future life. So it is said that we can know what your former life was like and what your future life will be like by seeing your present life. The result you face today may look advantageous to you but you should not be too much attached to it. It may look unfavourable to you but you should not be frustrated. You should see things as neutral. What is the best today can be the worst tomorrow and what is the worst today can be the best tomorrow. History shows that many of the great figures who helped mankind were those who accepted their misfortune as their stepping stone. In fact nobody can move from the result of his former life. However, if you can see it as neutral, you feel no need to move away from it. Then we say, “You’ve moved away from the result of your former life.”
When you can see things as they are, you can see things as neutral.

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