Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, Enlightenment, final goal, illusion, Meditation, Photography, Practice, Religion, self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q362. Buddhism talks about non-attachment. Should we therefore try to be unattached to meditation and Buddhist teaching?

A. It is true that we should try to be unattached even to meditation and Buddhist teaching. However, it is not that we attain non-attachment by suppressing our desire, but that non-attachment comes by itself as a result of our realising that everything is empty.


The core teaching of Buddhism is to realise that everything is empty through seeing everything as it is. When we realise that everything is empty and that there is nothing to be attached to, our attachment perishes of its own accord. Unless we realise that everything is empty, we might be able to control or suppress our attachment for quite some time, but we can’t remove it for good.




Buddhist teaching and meditation are like medicine for curing us of attachment. Once we get well after taking medicine, we don’t need it any longer, and our attachment to medicine disappears naturally. However, you won’t be cured of the disease, attachment, if you only keep away from medicine while you are sick. Keeping away from medicine in order to remove your attachment to medicine while you are sick is making matters worse and making another strong attachment to non-attachment.


Student: “How can I attain non-attachment?”

Master: “Don’t discard your attachment.”

Student: “Why do you tell me not to discard my attachment?”

Master: “Because your attachment is the very non-attachment.”


©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Bible, Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, Enlightenment, final goal, illusion, master, Photography, Religion, root, self, student, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

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.




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.


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, emptiness, empty, Enlightenment, final goal, illusion, Koan, master, Meditation, Mind, Photography, Practice, root, student, suffering, sutras, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q271. What does the phrase ‘You should neither hold on to the meaning of the Sutras nor let go of it’ mean?

A. Holding on to the meaning of the Sutras means keeping the words without perfect understanding, in other words keeping food undigested in the stomach. Letting go of it means to ignore and forget it. For better understanding, let’s take the following as an example.


Buddha had a student who was notorious for having killed many people and even tried to kill Buddha before becoming a monk. One day this monk happened to visit one of Buddha’s lay students, when his wife was having a hard time being in labour. The layman said to the monk, “Please relieve my wife of this terrible suffering with your power.” The monk responded, “I still don’t have such divine power. I will go and ask my master, Buddha for this favour for your wife.” Upon returning to Buddha, the monk explained the situation and asked him what he should do. Buddha answered, “You go back to the house, and tell her that you have never killed anyone.” The monk did as he was told to, and then, on hearing his words, she was relieved of her suffering.





This metaphor implies that everything is empty.


When Buddha said to his disciple, “Tell her that you have never killed anyone”, he meant that whatever bad and cruel things, or whatever good and beautiful things we may do, they are all empty, so the young monk’s murder was also empty. He likened her childbirth to the young monk’s murder. The woman in labour, on hearing what the monk said, realised the truth that the suffering she was going through was also empty, just as the murders the monk committed were empty.


We should understand what the Sutras say, in the same way that the woman in labour understood Buddha’s remark passed on by his student. The moment she heard Buddha’s message, she made it part of herself. If she had ignored, let go of the message or remembered it only as a meaningful saying, or held on to the meaning of it, she couldn’t have been relieved of her suffering.


Master: “What did Buddha tell his student to say to the woman in labour?”

Student: “He told him to say, ‘I’ve never killed anyone’.”

Master: “Why did Buddha tell him to say so?”

Student: “Because He wanted to teach her that everything is empty.”

Master: “You are still holding on to the meaning of Buddha’s teaching.”

Student: “Then, what did He say?”

Master: “He didn’t say anything, and his student didn’t go to her house.”


©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway




Enlightenment, final goal, Koan, Meditation, true self, Truth, Zen

Q91. What do you mean by ‘Everything is the gate to the truth’?

A. It means that everything you hear and see is teaching you. You can reach your final goal if you grasp this teaching. Let me give you an example.

Once upon a time a monk who had been practising Zen meditation with the Zen question, ‘What was your original face like before you were born?’ happened to be walking across a market place. He saw a group of people making a great fuss around a humble looking man. The fact was that this man was caught stealing some money from an elderly woman. Some bystanders in the crowd blamed him and some were feeling pity for him. One of them said to him, “You’ve lost your face now. How can you save your face before your family?” The poor man answered with his head bent, “I have no face to lose any more.” The moment the monk heard the phrase ‘I have no face to lose’, his question ‘What was your original face like before you were born?’ was solved perfectly. The trivial word from the humble thief was the greatest teaching to the monk that he had ever heard in his life. What would not be a gate to the truth, if even such a trifle as the thief’s words is the greatest teaching?


Do you want to hear the teaching of the truth?
Listen carefully to your family and neighbours.
©Boo Ahm
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Bible, Buddha, Buddhism, Enlightenment, final goal, Koan, Truth, Zen

Q88. Why is it difficult to get the point of masters’ teachings?

A. You should remember that all sayings from the Sutras, the Bible and masters are all like a piece of broken tile for knocking on the door. Let’s suppose you are locked in a burning room and trying to get out of it. The room has a single window through which you can escape from it but unfortunately you are not aware of the window. I throw a piece of broken tile at the widow in order to let you know the existence of the window, the only exit.

What should you do now? As soon as you hear the strike of the broken tile on the window or see the broken tile thrown into the room, you should be able to escape from the burning room through the window.
However, most of you pick up the tile and try to analyse it: the elements of it, location of its production, its colour, its weight, the effect it can have on the room and so on. This is the way you accept masters’ teachings, so you can’t avoid finding it difficult to get to the point of the teachings.


Which is your way of approaching Zen?

In order to catch the point of the teachings, don’t cling to the words themselves, but try to grasp the main

intention of their being spoken.

©Boo Ahm

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

intention of their being spoken.

©Boo Ahm

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