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

Q268. Why do I neither understand any words of Zen, nor feel any advance or change, even though I have practiced calming my mind for over 30 years?

A. Practising hard is very important. However, what is more important is practising in the right way. Practising hard in the wrong way can lead you nowhere, or far away from your goal. For instance, after strong determination to reach London on foot from Manchester, you decide to walk 8 hours a day without fail. If you take the right path, you will be sure to get nearer and nearer your destination with time and reach there some day. If you, however, walk hard only in your garden, or in the opposite direction, no matter how hard and long you may walk, you will still be in the same place, your garden or farther away from your destination in spite of your vigorous effort.


So, checking whether you are taking the right way is as important as practising hard. You seem to have tried in vain to calm your mind by holding it firmly while not knowing what it is. The purpose of Zen meditation is not to keep your mind still but to realise what your mind is. Try to see what your mind is from now on instead of trying to calm it. If you see it clearly, you don’t have to try to calm it because it is always calm.




Student: “Why can’t I calm down my mind?”

Master: “Because you try to calm it down.”


©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddhism, desire, Enlightenment, Happiness, illusion, Meditation, Mind, poisons, Practice, true self, Truth, Zen

Q122. What are the antidotes for the three poisons against happiness?

A. The antidote for the poison of ignorance is wisdom, which means the ability to see everything as it is. That enables us to see a piece of broken rope as a piece of broken rope and rotten food as rotten food.

The antidote for the poison of greed is the precepts, which aim to control greed. We should suppress greed artificially before getting enlightened. To obey the precepts in the strictest sense, however, is not to suppress greed artificially but to have no greed to control through realising that everything is an illusion. Only then can we be said to obey the precepts. For example, when we have the wisdom to see everything as it is, we don’t have any desire to run away from the piece of broken rope, or to chase after rotten food because we can see rope as rope and rotten food as rotten food.


The antidote for the poison of anger is stillness, which naturally comes about when we obey the precepts. That is, when we obey the precepts, we have no greed. Then we need not struggle to fulfill our greed. When we don’t have to strive to satisfy our greed, there is no anger or disappointment that comes from the failure to meet our greed. Then our life becomes still.

In fact, the core of the three poisons is ignorance, and that of the three antidotes is the wisdom to see things as they are.
©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Enlightenment, final goal, Meditation, Truth, Zen

Q95. What does ‘enjoy being still’ mean?

A. Most people think it means to enjoy sitting still with our mind focused on something like our breath or Zen question during the meditation practice. Of course we can have such a feeling during the practice, and the stillness we feel during the practice will grow deeper and deeper along with it. That is a very essential process which we go through in order to reach the final goal. However, that is not the stillness mentioned in Zen meditation because as soon as we stop the practice, the stillness breaks and we come back into the noisy world. The stillness that can be enjoyed only during practice is of no practical use in our life. The purpose of Zen meditation is not to change only a given part of our life at a given time, but to change our whole life. In other words, the stillness we pursue is not temporary but permanent stillness, which we can feel only when, after removing all illusions, we realise the whole universe is still all the time regardless of whether we practice or not. Then our life is always still and peaceful, and we can enjoy stillness all the time even in a busy street or a crowded market place.


If I were asked what stillness is, I would say,

“Ten volcanos erupt at the same time.”

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway