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Q345. Christians say that Christ died on the cross to save us from our sins. How should we understand this?

A. Buddhism has similar metaphors. Buddha said, “Those who want to see me through my voice and body won’t see me.” He also said, “Kill me when you meet me if you do want to see me.”

 

According to the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus once said, “When you see one who was not born of woman, prostrate yourselves on your faces and worship him. That one is your father.” Who is one who was not born of woman? He is not one who is doomed to birth and death. You should know him. ‘Christ died on the cross to save us from our sins’ means that he died on the cross in public in order to teach people that his physical body was not him and tell them not to be deluded by the illusion of his body. If you cling to the idea that the young crucified person is Jesus, you are being deluded by an illusion. In other words, you can see the true Jesus when you are free from the illusion of Jesus.

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Student: “Why did Jesus die on the cross, saying that his father was almighty?”

Master: “Don’t insult him. He didn’t die but gave his teaching.”

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Bible, Buddha, Buddhism, Enlightenment, illusion, master, meditaion, One, Photography, Practice, Religion, root, self, student, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q344. What do you think of Easter in Christianity?

A. Easter is a Christian holiday when Christians remember the death of Jesus and his return to life. The death of Jesus means removing illusions, and his return to life means the revealing of the true-self. So, Easter is a great lesson that reminds us of the Christian teaching that we should remove illusions and see the true-self, the true Jesus.

The Bible describes well how the true-Jesus exists in Luke 24:15, 16: ‘As they walked and discussed, Jesus himself drew near and walked along with them; they saw him, but somehow did not recognise him.’ He is always with us wherever we are. He is with you even at this moment when you are reading this writing. The problem is that we don’t recognise him, because we are deluded by illusions. The purpose of Christianity is to recognise him. To recognise him is to attain eternal life in Christianity, or enlightenment in Buddhism.

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True Easter is not a specific day of the year but the day when we can recognise the true-Jesus. Following the literal meaning is being deluded by illusions and far from the true teaching of Christ.

Student: “How can I see the true Jesus?”

Master: “Thank you for showing the true Jesus.”

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, God, Happiness, master, Meditation, Mind, Photography, Practice, Religion, root, self, student, suffering, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q304. My life is still full of troublesome problems even though I practice Zen meditation. How can I be perfectly free from them?

A. There is no one who has no problems at all in the world. For a joke, it is said that even Buddha and God have a lot of troubles all the time because people don’t follow them and do a lot of bad things against their teachings. If you were perfectly free from troubles, the monotony of life might be your serious trouble.

 

You should know that Zen practice doesn’t change what happens to you but your view of what happens to you. As mentioned repeatedly earlier, everything is empty and neutral. Whether it is good or bad, useful or harmful, is in the eye of the beholder. Try to see everything as neutral even though you have not realised the truth. Why don’t you see your problems as good omens of good fortune to come? Why don’t you think that you are paying in advance for what you will enjoy later? When your view is changed, your thoughts are changed. When your thoughts are changed, your acts are changed. When your acts are changed, what happens to you will also be changed.

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Student: “How can I get rid of enemies?”

Master: “Why don’t you make them your friends?”

 

 

©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

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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

 

Bible, Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, illusion, master, Meditation, Photography, Practice, Religion, student, suffering, Uncategorized, Zen

Q289. Why should we give without expecting anything in return?

A. When you give help to someone, you should not expect anything in return for it but rather forget it. If you do expect anything, then it is not help but business disguised as help. This may result in your harming yourself later.

 

If you remember the favour you bestowed on someone and expect something in return, you are more likely to feel disappointed, or even betrayed by his refusal when you ask him for help than you would be if you did not give him any help. You are also likely to be less grateful when you are helped because you are apt to take his help for granted, rather than thank him for it, while thinking of it as repayment of the debt he owes you for your help. In the end, your help will cause you anger or unhappiness, or deprive you of happiness. It’s like your hurting yourself.

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So, ancient masters always advised people to do without doing. When you realise that everything is empty and think that your help is also empty, you can be said to help without helping. As an expedient means to teach how to do without doing, they would say, “Don’t even let your right hand know what it did, not to mention your left hand.”

 

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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Q283. Sometimes you say that we should remove all illusions, but sometimes you say there is nothing that is not the true-self. How can this be?

A. It’s true that everything is the true-self and there is nothing that is not the true-self. However, it is also true that everything is an illusion and there is nothing that is not an illusion. To remove illusions doesn’t mean to detach illusions from the true-self and throw them away to a remote place. If you happen to think this way, you are going in the opposite direction away from your goal because you separate illusions from the true-self and make them two.

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As we have mentioned many times, the purpose of Zen meditation is to realise oneness or non-duality. Jesus also said, “When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when you make the male and the female one and the same, so that the male is not male nor the female female; then will you enter the kingdom.” To remove illusions means to realise the truth that all illusions are the true-self and both of them are one. Therefore, when we are not enlightened, that is, when we can’t see things as they are, everything is an illusion, but when we are enlightened, there is nothing that is not the true-self.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q280. Why is Zen meditation selfish?

A. What makes you think Zen meditation is selfish? Do you happen to think so because Zen doesn’t emphasise compassion during the teaching, that is to say, that we should help the poor or those in trouble? Zen expresses the same message in a different way.

 

Zen teaches people that we are one with the poor and the weak, that is, they are part of us and we are part of them by getting people to realise the truth that we are oneness with all the universe, rather than say that we should help them.

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Which is the more appealing and more persuasive of the following two scenarios, “This boy lost his parents and has no food to eat and no shelter to live in. We should help him because he is likely to become a criminal and harm our society in the future if he is left uncared for now” or “Take a close look at this boy. This is part of you.”? This is what the Biblical scripture, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ means.

 

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Bible, Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, Enlightenment, final goal, God, master, Meditation, Mind, One, Photography, Practice, Religion, root, self, student, sutras, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q277. How can I, as a Christian, go to Heaven?

A. If you are to go to Heaven you should, above all, know where it is in order to go there, and then you should also know how to get there. I am going to quote from Jesus about where it is and how to get there.

 

Jesus said, “If those who lead you say to you, ‘See, the kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you.” In other words, everything, whether Heaven or Hell, is produced by your mind. Where you are now is both Heaven and Hell. Whether it is Heaven or Hell depends on your mind.

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Jesus said to them, “When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when you make the male and the female one and the same, so that the male is not be male nor the female the female; and when you fashion an eye in the place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, and a likeness in place of a likeness; then will you enter the kingdom.” Put more simply, this means that in order to enter Heaven, we should not discriminate. We have a very similar saying in Zen: Make the smallest distinction and you are as far from it as Heaven is from Earth. In conclusion, to realise that Heaven and Hell are only illusions produced by your mind is to enter Heaven.

 

Student: “How can I enter Heaven?”

Master: “Enter Hell.”

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q275. I am a little frightened that I may fall into emptiness.

A. It may be due to the impression that comes from the stereotype of the word ’emptiness’ that you have such a feeling. Some people are worried that if they fall into emptiness, everybody they love comes to look like a shadow or a ghost, and that they may lose the feeling of love and connection they have shared with them so far. They may also think that everything will seem to be so valueless and useless because it looks empty to them. In the end, they are afraid that they are likely to become pessimistic.

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Don’t misunderstand emptiness. The word ’emptiness’ used in Zen doesn’t mean what you have imagined so far. Its meaning is much closer to freedom than to void in that we free ourselves from all the yokes of life. Having fear of falling into emptiness is like having fear of falling into great eternal happiness because you have never experienced such happiness. Emptiness is where you are from and are to return to, so that you may obtain eternal happiness. Don’t be afraid to face this unknown happiness.

 

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway