Buddha, Buddhism, Enlightenment, final goal, Happiness, Meditation, Photography, Practice, root, sutras, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q335. If everything is empty, is it important to actually attain enlightenment? After enlightenment, can you really hold on to it? Are you then walking around as ‘an enlightened being’? In my opinion, it’s impossible to sustain that experience because it’s empty. Is it a bit like trying to hold onto quick sand?

A. Enlightenment doesn’t mean ‘void’ or ‘valueless’ but means ‘perfection’, ‘perfect freedom’, ‘perfect happiness’ or ‘unlimited possibility’.


Attaining enlightenment is compared to a patient’s recovering perfectly from serious illness after taking good medicine. A patient is always ill wherever he is, whatever he does. He walks around as an ill being, and drinks tea as an ill being. However, once he has recovered perfectly from illness, he is well all the time whatever he does, wherever he is. He walks around as a healthy being and drinks tea as a healthy being. He is quite different from what he was when he was ill. He never wants to return to the previous state because he remembers how terrible he felt while ill and can feel how much happier he is now than before.



The difference between attaining enlightenment and recovering from illness is that you, once getting enlightened, can’t return to the unenlightened state, while you can lose your health again if not taking care of it. Whatever you do, wherever you are, you are always in the state of enlightenment forever without any effort to stay in, or sustain the state. So, a Sutra says that once you pass the gate of enlightenment, the gate is closed behind you forever.



©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

Q256. What does ‘being like a mirror’ mean?

A. An ancient master said, “Everybody has a mirror. An unenlightened person’s life is like a monkey looking in a mirror, but an enlightened person’s is like a mirror looking at a monkey.” A monkey, when looking in a mirror, mistakes its reflection as another monkey and tries in vain to do something with it. However, a mirror, when something or someone is before it, just reflects the thing or the person as it is or as they are. It neither names, evaluates nor loves or hates it or them. In other words, it never discriminates. So, ‘being like a mirror’ represents the undiscriminating mind of the enlightened.



Student: “How do you feel when you are like a mirror?”

Master: “I become a big liar if I answer your question.”


©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

Buddha, Buddhism, emptiness, empty, Enlightenment, final goal, illusion, master, Meditation, Mind, mindful, self, student, true self, Truth, Uncategorized, Zen

Q238. What is the difference between ‘form’ and ‘illusion’?

A. Form can be likened to wind, and emptiness to air. All winds, whether breezes or storms, are the actions of air. There can’t be any wind which is not air. Wind is air, and air is not separate from wind. Form is to emptiness as wind is to air. All forms, whether bad or good, or moral or immoral, are action of emptiness, the true-self.

When we know the truth that form is the action of emptiness, the true-self, just as wind is the action of air, form is called form. When we are ignorant of this truth and believe that form is self-existing apart from emptiness, then form is referred to as illusion. This is like believing that wind is one thing and air is another. What is form to the enlightened is an illusion to the unenlightened.

The purpose of Zen meditation is to see everything as it is, which means to see everything in both ways, as form and emptiness at the same time, just like we know that wind and air are the same when wind brushes against our skin.



Student: “How can I avoid illusions and see my true-self, Sir?”

Master: “Why do you hope to see your true-self while trying to avoid It?”



©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway