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

Buddhism, Mind, mindful, mindfulness, Practice, Truth, Zen

Q57. Do we have to do away with all illusions in order to see the truth?

A. Absolutely not. You should know that escaping from illusions means not removing or destroying them but realising that all illusions are also the truth. We are apt to judge what seems, or sounds nice or holy, to be the truth and what seems bad or ugly to be an illusion. In fact everything we can see, hear, feel and imagine, whether good or bad and right or wrong, is the truth. There is nothing but the truth, which we can’t escape from even a moment. Not seeing it is much more difficult than seeing it.

Why can’t we see it? It is because our eyes are covered with the truth and not because it is too far away. In other words it is so near us that we don’t recognise it.

Don’t look away from illusions for the truth. That is to go after illusions turning your back on the truth. The truth is not separate from illusions. What you regard as illusions is the truth and what you look upon as the truth is illusions. Don’t try to do away with illusions. You can’t make it because they are not illusions but the truth. People who strive to eliminate illusions are those who don’t know what they are. How can you remove them when you don’t know what they are? Faced with what you think is an illusion, trace back to the root which the idea of the illusion stems from instead of making efforts to get rid of it. That is the very Zen practice.

SRH_0118a_thumb - Copy

Never avoid illusions.
Never go after the truth.
If you stop avoiding and going after,
You will be motionless.
That is the way the truth is.

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