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Q292. During practice I can keep my mind silent without any thoughts but I can neither stop thinking nor keep my mind calm when not practising.

A. Trying to keep your mind calm by stopping thoughts from arising without knowing where they are from, is like trying to remove weeds by cutting their leaves, while leaving their roots intact. Just as you will be bothered again by new weeds from the remaining roots sooner or later, so you cannot get permanent calmness without realising the root of your thoughts, or illusions. Then, the silent state with no thoughts becomes another illusion.


Masters’ words “keep your mind calm by stopping thinking” has two meanings: One is before enlightenment and the other is after enlightenment. The former is to have less thoughts by focusing all your attention to your question. The latter, the end of Zen, doesn’t mean literally to stop thinking but not to be deluded by thoughts through realising the truth that everything is empty. Once realising the truth, your mind becomes calm by itself regardless of whether you think or not, because you are not deluded by your thoughts. Masters would say, “You may have as many weeds as you want, but never let them take root.” Then you can enjoy calmness all the time no matter how many thoughts you may have because you are aware that they are empty.

©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddhism, Practice, Truth, Zen

Q51. What does it mean when masters say our true-self is holy?

A. When it is said to be very pure or holy, it means that it is perfectly free of illusions. All words and ideas are illusions, so even the idea of its being pure or holy is an illusion and defiles it. The fact is that it neither pure nor dirty and can’t be dirtied or stained by anything. That is why ancient masters would keep silent as an answer when they were asked what they were when their body was not them.

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