Questions and Koans

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Hsin Shin Ming: “21. Do not hold to dual

Hsin Shin Ming: “21. Do not hold to dualistic views, and don’t follow anything to find the Way, the true-Self.”

Dualistic views means discriminating views or illusions, and ‘do not hold to dualistic views’ implies ‘do not cling to discriminating views or illusions. ‘Don’t follow anything’ means ‘don’t follow illusions’. This scripture means ‘Don’t discriminate and don’t follow illusions while mistaking them for the Way’.

When you stop discriminating, you can see everything as it is. To see everything as it is, is to see everything as empty. When everything is empty, there is no one to follow and nothing to be followed. If you happen to think that there is anything for you to cling to, however tiny, it is the evidence that you are still holding on to dualistic views and far from seeing the Way. So, in order to prevent us from clinging to illusions, ancient masters would say that all the Sutras were devil’s talk and that we should kill even Buddha and all Patriarchs.

Student: “How can I stop following things?”
Master: “There is nothing to follow.”
Student: “I still don’t understand.”
Master: “You are following my words now.”

©Boo Ahm
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway http://ow.ly/i/C2Yvb

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Xuefeng’s “Turning the Dharma Wheel” Zen

Xuefeng’s “Turning the Dharma Wheel”

Zen master Yicun of Mount Xuefeng pointed with his finger at a furnace and said to Xuansha, “All Buddhas in the three worlds are in here, turning the great dharma wheel.” Xuansha said, “The king’s regulations are rather strict.” Xuefeng said, “How so?” Xuansha said, “Stealing is not permitted.”

Student: “What did Yicun mean when he, pointing at a furnace, said that all Buddhas are there, turning the great dharma wheel?”
Master: “He showed the king.”
Student: “Why did Xuansha say, ‘The king’s regulations are rather strict’ and ‘Stealing is not permitted’?”
Master: “Because nothing can be stolen in the king’s nation even though everything is left alone without being guarded.”

Commentary:
Once you have realised the king’s strict regulations, you are allowed to steal the whole universe.

©Boo Ahm
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway http://ow.ly/i/C1OyV

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The Bible says that God gives us what we

The Bible says that God gives us what we want when we pray to God heartily. Does Zen practice also help us to obtain what we want?

Zen meditation doesn’t help us to obtain something that we are lacking but helps you us to realise that we are already perfectly blessed with all we need. I think that the Biblical quotation above has the same meaning.

Taking this Biblical phrase literally can evoke or bolster our greed and selfishness rather than control and reduce them. This is degrading God to a biased mundane being that prefers those who are pleasing him to those who are not. To believe in God in this way is not to worship him but to profane him, which is also to debase our dignity.

I’d like to interpret this quotation as ‘We will realise that we already have all we need when we can see clearly who God is’.

©Boo Ahm
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway http://ow.ly/i/AZZzq

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Hsin Shin Ming: “20. Do not search for t

Hsin Shin Ming: “20. Do not search for the truth; only cease to cherish false opinions.”

‘Search for the truth’ means to search for the true-Self, and ‘cherish false opinion’ means to mistake names which are just imaginary lines as real. The fact is that there is nothing that doesn’t belong to the truth. There is nothing other than the truth. We are already the truth itself as well. We can’t get out of the truth, or cease to be the truth even for a moment. The reason why we don’t see the truth is not that it is far from us but that false opinions prevent us from seeing it.

Our problem is that we search for truth with false opinions of it. This is like building a barrier of false opinions before our eyes that blocks our sight. The more false opinions we have, the stronger and the higher the barrier becomes. The harder we search for it in this way, the further we become from seeing it.

So, you should try to realise what it is that searches for the truth instead of searching for the truth in vain. Realising what you are is realising the truth because you are no other than the very truth itself.

Student: “What is the truth?”
Master: “What is not?”
Student: “I am still lost.”
Master: “That’s it, too.”

©Boo Ahm
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway http://ow.ly/i/Ax32b

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The World-Honoured One’s “Esoteric Speec

The World-Honoured One’s “Esoteric Speech”

Zen master Daoying of Mount Yunju was once asked by a government official who had brought an offering, “It is said that the World-Honoured One had esoteric speech and Mahakasyapa did not hide it. What is the World-Honoured One’s esoteric speech?”

Yunju said, “Officer.” The officer said, “Yes!” Yunju said, “Do you understand?” The officer said, “No, I don’t.” Yunju said, “If you don’t understand it, that is the World-Honoured One’s esoteric speech. If you do understand it, that is Mahakasyapa’s not hiding it.”

Student: “What did Yunju mean when he talked about the World-Honoured One’s esoteric speech and Mahakasyapa’s not hiding it?”
Master: “He meant that the World-Honoured One’s esoteric speech is wrapping paper, and Mahakasyapa’s not hiding it is the content.”

Commentary:
Ore is a just a piece of stone to a layman but jewellery to an ore expert.

©Boo Ahm
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway http://ow.ly/i/AofDd

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Hsin Shin Ming: “19. Changes that seem t

Hsin Shin Ming: “19. Changes that seem to occur before us, appear real only because of ignorance.”

‘Changes that seem to occur before us, appear real’ means that we mistake what doesn’t occur for something that really occurs, that is, we are deluded by illusions. A good example of this is a dream we have during sleep.

‘Because of our ignorance’ means ‘because we can’t see things as they are’ or ‘because we can’t see things as empty’. Put in other words, we mistake illusions for reality just like we mistake a dream for reality during sleep, because we can’t see things as they are.

So, ancient masters would compare enlightenment with awakening from a dream by saying, “Awake from your dream, and all illusions will disappear by themselves.” According to the Diamond Sutra, Buddha also said, “If you can see all things as your dream, you will see the true-Self.”

Student: “How can I awake from my dream?”
Master: “Don’t think that you are asking me a question now.”

©Boo Ahm
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway http://ow.ly/i/Ax2Ik

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Hsin Shin Ming: “18. The moment you are

Hsin Shin Ming: “18. The moment you are enlightened, you go beyond appearances and emptiness.”

Enlightenment means to see things as they are, and seeing things as they are means seeing things without labelling them, which is to see things as empty. So, ‘you are enlightened’ means that you see everything as empty. ‘Appearances’ means forms or things. When everything is empty, all appearances are not appearances anymore because they become oneness as emptiness. Then, there is just emptiness and nothing else. When there is only emptiness, emptiness is not emptiness anymore because there is nothing else to distinguish from it. Therefore, when you are enlightened, you are not deluded by appearances and don’t cling to emptiness. That is to go beyond appearances and emptiness and to see things in both ways; as appearances and as emptiness.

Student: “How can I see things in both ways; as appearances and as emptiness?”
Master: “When you see your question as appearance, it is a question, but it is an answer to your question when you see it as empty.”

©Boo Ahm
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway http://ow.ly/i/Ap3w7

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Touzi’s “Harmonising the Ten Bodies” Tou

Touzi’s “Harmonising the Ten Bodies”

Touzi Datong was once asked by a monastic, “What is the harmonising of the ten bodies of the Buddha?” Touzi got down from the sitting platform and stood with folded hands. On another occasion a monastic asked, “What distance is there between ordinary ones and the sacred one?” Touzi got down from the sitting platform and stood with folded hands.

Student: “Why did Touzi get down from the sitting platform and stand with folded hands when he was asked about the harmonising of the ten bodies of the Buddha?”
Master: “Because you didn’t see the Buddha but saw just Touzi.”
Student: “Why did Touzi get down from the sitting platform and stand with folded hands when he was asked about the distance between ordinary ones and the sacred one?”
Master: “What is right before one’s eyes is as invisible as if it were thousands of miles away to the blind.”

Commentary:
When you see ordinary ones and the sacred one at the same time, there is no distance at all between them.
When you can see only the ordinary ones, the distance is beyond description because the sacred one is invisible.

©Boo Ahm
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway http://ow.ly/i/Aofqi

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Hsin Shin Ming: “17. To return to the ro

Hsin Shin Ming: “17. To return to the root is to find the essence, but to pursue appearances is to miss the Source.”

‘To return to the root’ means to realise who or what makes your body think, or talk, when you think or talk. It also means to see and hear beyond the names of things when you see or hear things. ‘To find the essence’ means to find the true-Self.

‘To pursue appearances’ implies to follow the names and forms of things, or imaginary lines. To see your body as the essence of your being and be attached to it is a typical example of pursuing appearance. ‘To miss the Source’ means to miss the true-Self, which is to be deluded by illusions.

To conclude, to realise what or who makes your body read this writing is to find the true-Self, or attain enlightenment. To see your body as the essence of your being is to miss the true-Self, or be deluded by illusions. In brief, to realise who or what drives your body when you do something is to find the essence, or attain enlightenment.

Student: “What is the Source?”
Master: “Pardon?”
Student: “What is the Source?”
Master: “That’s it.”

©Boo Ahm
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway http://ow.ly/i/Ap3qv

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Hsin Shin Ming: “16. Cease all thinking

Hsin Shin Ming: “16. Cease all thinking and talking, and there is nothing that will not be revealed to you.”

‘Cease all thinking and talking’ should not be mistaken for becoming insensible, or thoughtless, like a patient with serious dementia. It means to stop discriminating, that is, stop being deluded by illusions. In order not to be deluded by illusions, we should realise that everything is empty by seeing everything as it is. To see things as they are, you should be able to see yourself as you are and know what you are when your body is not you. In other words, to know who thinks and talks when you think, or talk is to cease thinking and talking.

‘There is nothing that will not be revealed to you’ means that there will be nothing that doesn’t turn out to be empty, or that there are no illusions that delude your seeing and hearing.

So, if you can see yourself as you are, you are not deluded by illusions through your realisation that everything is empty.

Student: “How can I cease thinking and talking?”
Master: “Why do you want to cease thinking and talking?”
Student: “So I can see the true-Self.”
Master: “Thinking and talking are the action of your true-Self. “

©Boo Ahm
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway http://ow.ly/i/AofzV