Chan Garden

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In the West as well as in the East, there are many who have the misconception that Chan just emphasizes direct pointing to the mind and dispenses with all methods of cultivation. This misconception may arise from the view that, since everyone is originally a buddha and already enlightened, there is no need to practice. The second misconception is that, yes, we do have to practice, but all that is required is to sit, sit, and sit. A story from the early Chan School in China illustrates this second misconception. As a monk, Mazu Daoyi (709-788) spent a lot of time meditating. One day, while Mazu was sitting in deep meditation, Master Nanyueh Huaijang (677-744), sat next to him and started rubbing a brick with his sleeve. Mazu asked, “Why are you rubbing that brick?” Nanyueh replied, “I am polishing it until it becomes a mirror.” Mazu said, “That’s strange, I never heard that rubbing a brick could make it into a mirror.” Whereupon the master said: “And I never heard that one can become a buddha by sitting.”
This is certainly very important question. If one believes in Buddhism without practicing it in daily life, the only benefit one will acquire is the planting of a seed for future Buddhahood. Such a person will hardly gain any benefit in this life.
Chan is often referred to as the gateless gate. The "gate" is both a method of practice and a path to liberation; this gate is "gateless," however, in that Chan does not rely on any specific method to help a practitioner achieve liberation. The methodless method is the highest method. So long as the practitioner can drop the self-centered mind, the gateway into Chan will open naturally.
The methods used in Chan meditation originated in China and have their roots in India. However, the principle behind these methods, founded on developing one’s body and mind through concentration and insight, is universal. Thus, it can be said that all great religious figures, philosophers, statesmen, scientists, writers, and artists all over the world, from the past to the present, have, in their own way, experienced the benefit of Chan. Although such people may not practice Chan or assume seated meditation postures, their extraordinary ability to focus and develop insight is the basis of their achievements in their respective fields. These abilities are in accord with the effects of Chan meditation.
Chan is a school of Buddhist meditation that is found throughout East Asia. It is known as Zen in Japan, Thiên in Vietnam, and Sŏn in Korea. Its distinctive form first took shape in China some fifteen hundred years ago. The aim of Chan is to live life with wisdom and compassion through realization of our interconnectedness with all things. Chan involves active awareness, participation and engagement in daily life. The foundation of this goal is seated meditation. In this sesseion, Master Sheng Yen discusses the benefits of seated meditation in the context of Chan practice and scientific findings about meditation. He does not elaborate the methods of practice in great detail because meditation cannot be learned by reading a book. Interested readers are encouraged to find a Chan meditation center and receive instruction on the actual practice from a qualified teacher
The demands of life can tax our brains and bodies. When we react with strong emotions, whether wild excitement or violent rage, blood vessels constrict, pulse rate quickens, blood pressure increases, and we breathe more rapidly. All of these factors can lead to such conditions as cerebral hemorrhage, insomnia, palpitations, tinnitus, neurosis, and indigestion. When we experience severe emotions, endocrine gland functioning becomes imbalanced, and toxins are produced in the blood.
If we want a healthy body and mind, the first step is to observe and understand how they work. We really understand very little about our own bodies and minds. We know that cellular metabolism does not stop for a moment, but we do not actually sense it. We seldom think about how the food we eat affects our health. We seldom pay attention to how many thoughts come and go in a single day or even in a minute. At the end of the day, we may have some impressions of a few major concerns we may have dwelt upon, but we are never clear about the actual number of thoughts in our mind at any given moment.
The physiological and psychological benefits of meditation derive from concentrating the mind, either on an abstract or concrete object. This is best accomplished through seated meditation.
The Buddhadharma, as the term itself suggests, is the Dharma, or teachings, taught by the Buddha. Shakyamuni Buddha taught the Dharma in this world for forty-nine years, and his teachings were not intended as a philosophy/field of knowledge to be researched, but as guidance for us to cease suffering and attain happiness. Therefore, the Buddhadharma is of practical value.

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At Dharma Drum Mountain meditation camp, I emphasize affirming and developing the self, but after we do that, we should dissolve the self and transcend our human character to perfect pure mind. We do not measure success or failure in terms of visible or invisible fame, fortune, power, or status. Who do you think will become a Buddha first? Will it be someone here in the audience, or will it be me? You might think it won’t be one of my disciples, but me. In fact, that’s not necessarily so. In a marathon, people who are ahead early may fall behind, and people who are behind at first may move ahead. People are continuously changing positions. Therefore, in practice, do not pay attention to whether others are running faster or practicing better than you, and don’t be concerned about who’s ahead and who’s behind. The most important thing is to give your best all the time.
People who cannot connect themselves with the outside world in terms of space and time, who do not understand cause and effect, and causes and conditions, will feel lonely.
Modern communication being so rapid causes people much anxiety and nightmares; they cannot feel relaxed as long as there is social disorder throughout the world. This is true whether one experiences this directly or indirectly, whether it concerns the self, family, society, country, political/economic life, or religious belief. As long as the situation affects one’s personal safety or peril, gain or loss, success or failure, people cannot sit back and relax
Isolation is when there is great social distance between people and people do not care about or interact with one another. For example, in a modern family couple may work in different professions and the children in school are at different levels, or even the whole family could be studying or working far away from each other. Not only is it difficult to meet face-to-face in the daytime, times of rest or sleep may also be different. And some couples may not exchange more than a sentence within a day. The situation is no different between parents and children. Once the children are sent to nursery school, they are taken care of by the teacher, and it is difficult for parents and children to meet each morning and evening; some perhaps only meet several times in a week. As for modern people living in apartments, they may not care about the neighbor next door. It may even be redundant greet each other in the elevator, since there is no need to know their name and what they do. There is no longer any mutual caring or assistance.
Modern life is materially abundant but that also complicates the living environment. Because of abundance, the desires of human beings have also become very strong. Seeing what someone else has, we want to have it, too. Already having many conveniences, we may wish for more. These desires cause us to be tempted by materialism and one loses self-control, self-judgment, and self-confidence. The relationship between human desires and material civilization is like a person atop a tiger. If he gets off, the tiger devours him. Therefore, he must continue to ride the tiger and as the tiger runs faster, the rider gets more nervous. Yet no matter how nervous he gets, he dares not let the tiger stop in its tracks. Modern people often have this mindset.
Even if you could live a hundred years, that is only 36,500 days. Within a single day the amount of work you can do is still very limited. If you wish to accomplish more and do better, it is almost impossible not to work swiftly. But if you have clear plans and work swiftly by following clear schedules and procedures, you won’t feel so nervous. Only those without clearly defined goals, and who rush through their workday will feel nervous. Therefore, I propose that you work swiftly but in an orderly way and not anxiously race against time.
From the Chan perspective, settling the mind is the method and process by which we cure the afflicted mind. Actually, the reason for people’s mental instability already exists at the time of birth. If you do not recognize your problems by the time you have grown up, you really have problems. Nobody in the world is completely free from mental problems. When you discover you have problems and illness, and do not conceal them from yourself, this is a health attitude. How does Chan teach people to calm their minds in everyday life? The Chan attitude is to recognize the problem, face it, deal with it, and then let it go. No matter what one encounters, do not see it as devastating. If one knows in advance what possible misfortune may occur, it is best to not let it happen; if it must happen what is the use in worrying? Worries and anxieties not only are of no help but will also probably make situations even worse. The best solution is to face it.
Chan provides the methods and concepts to help people settle their minds. In his youth Shakyamuni Buddha witnessed the suffering of birth, aging, sickness, and death, but did not know how to gain liberation from these things. So, leaving home to practice, he became enlightened to the way of settling the mind. Then, he taught the Dharma for 49 years, all with the intent to help human beings settle their minds. He told us that though the body requires material aid and medical care, the mind needs the salvation of buddhaharma.
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Chan exists universally and eternally. There is no need for any teacher to transmit it; what is transmitted is just the method by which one can personally experience Chan. In China, the Chan school developed from Indian Dhyana Buddhism, which taught methods of meditative concentration aimed at the attainment of an absorbed, concentrated state of mind. This school later spread to other countries from China, and is called Zen in Japan, Son in Korea, and Thien in Vietnam.

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Contents:
Acknowledgments
Editor’s Preface
Human Consciousness in the Chan Perspective
Buddhadharma in the Modern World
Transforming Suffering
Life in a Chan Monastery
Why I am a Chan Monk
Dreaming Asleep and Awake
Egoism and Altruism
Chan: a Gateway to Wisdom
The Spirit of Chan
Chan and Enlightenment
The Chan View of Life
The Life of a Chinese Monk
Enlightenment and Buddhahood
Chinese Buddhism and the Chan Tradition
Living and Dying with Dignity
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Contents:
Editor’s Preface
Acknowledgments
Abbot’s Foreword
Parting Words
Shakyamuni’s Great Vow
Tea Words
The Problem of Death
Emptiness and Loneliness
How to Practice Chan
Is Practice Necessary?
Opening up to Nature
Right Attitudes as an Aid to Practice
Strictness and Laxity
Where is my Master?
Emptiness and Existence
Bitter Practice
The Other Side
Cultivating Your Own Field
Letting Go
Practice is like Tuning a Harp
Chan, Meditation, and Mysticism
Compassionate Contemplation
The Four Marks of Self
Buddha-Nature, Sentient Beings, and Ignorance
Samsara and Nirvana
Thinking without Purpose
No Anger or Love between Master and Disciple
Is Buddhism Theistic?
Four Views of Chan
Light and Quakes
Ten Thousand and One
Change and Changelessness
Creations of the Mind
Buddhism and Fate
Chan Buddhism and its Relevance in North America: Part One
Chan Buddhism and Its Relevance in North America: Part Two
Pilgrimage to India
Chan and Daily Life


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Contents:
Introduction
My Commitment and Life’s Mission
Inheriting the Past and Inspiring the Future
The Dharma Drum Lineage of Chan Buddhism
About the Author : Master Sheng Yen
Appendix
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Contents:
Foreword
In the Spirit of Chan
The Origin of Chan
Bodhidharma's Two Entries and Four Practices
Chan:The Gateless Gate
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Contents:
The Wealth of Chan Meditation
The Precious Human Body
Scientists, Views on Meditation
Ensuring a Healthy Body and Mind
Cultivating a Strong Character
From a Balanced Body and Mind to a State of Liberation
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Contents:
My Intellectual Autobiography–Life in the Army (by Chan Master Sheng Yen)
Don’t Think (by Gilbert Gutierrez)
The Arising of Conditioned Appearance From the True Mind–Part 11 (by Abbot Venerable Guo Xing)
The Past (from CMC, DDRC and DDMBA Worldwide)
The Future (retreats, classes and upcoming events)
Chan Meditation Center Affiliates





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Contents:
From the Editor
Reason and Emotion(by Chan Master Sheng Yen)
The Arising of Conditioned Appearance From the True Mind–Part 7(by Abbot Venerable Guo Xing)
Strong Determination(by Žarko Andričević)
Retreat Report(by Maria Balog)
The Past (from CMC, DDRC and DDMBA Worldwide)
The Future (retreats, classes and upcoming events)
Chan Meditation Center Affiliates




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Contents:
A Dream Narrative(by Chan Master Sheng Yen)
Butterfly Dream (by Zhuang Zhou)
The Arising of Conditioned Appearance From the True Mind-Part 3(by Abbot Venerable Guo Xing)
Training Story (by Guo Gu)
My Mother′s Last Gift (by Xueshan)
Retreat Report (by Mimi Yu)
The Contractor (by Harry Miller)
The Past(News from CMC, DDMBA and DDRC)
The Future(Retreats, classes and upcoming events)
Chan Meditation Center Affiliates



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Contents:
From the Editor
On Gong’ans(by Chan Master Sheng Yen, translated by Guo Gu)
When A Beautiful Woman’s Spirit Departs(by Guo Gu)
The Water Buffalo’s Tail(by Harry Miller)
Working with Gong’ans (by Simon Child)
Master and Student(by Gilbert Gutierrez)
The Past(News from CMC, DDMBA and DDRC)
The Future(Retreats, classes and upcoming events)
Chan Center Affiliates


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Contents:
From the Editor
World Crises and Fundamentalism(Dharma Talk by Chan Master Sheng Yen)
Hidden Assumptions, Fixed Views(Dharma Talk by Dr. Simon Child)
Leaving Home, Part Four(How David Kabacinski became Changwen Fashi by Ven. Changwen)
The Past(News from the Chan Meditation Center and DDMBA)
The Future (Retreats, classes and other upcoming events)
Chan Center Affiliates




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Contents:
From the Editor
In Retrospect(Early Lectures of Master Sheng Yen in America, Part 3)
Difficult Practice (Retreat Talk by Ven. Guo Ru)
The Past(News from the Chan Meditation Center and DDMBA)
The Future (Retreats, classes and other upcoming events)
Chan Center Affiliates




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Contents:
From the Editor
The Seven Factors of Enlightenment(The second of three articles by Chan Master Sheng Yen)
Ink and Water(Interview with Ven. Chi Chern by Buffe Laffey)
Huatou vs. Silent Illumination(Retreat talk by Guo Ru Fashi)
The Past(News from the Chan Meditation Center and DDMBA)
The Future(Retreats, classes and other upcoming events)
Chan Center Affiliates





Spring 2009
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Contents
From Dharma Drum Mountain(Official notification of Shifu’s passing)
Last Will and Testament
Transmission(Dharma teachers-in-training meet Shifu for the final time)
New Year Greetings(Master Sheng Yen’s final talks)
Gratitude and Vows(by Guogu)
The Noble Eightfold Path(The third of four articles by Chan Master Sheng Yen)
The Past(News from the Chan Meditation Center and DDMBA)
The Future(Retreats, classes and other upcoming events)
Chan Center Affiliates
Spring 2008
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Contents
From the Editor
Chan Comes West(A selection of Chan Master Sheng Yen’s earliest teachings in America)
"Rising Compassion"(CMC’s 30th Anniversary Celebration)
Walking With the Buddha(Photo essay by Rikki Asher)
The Past(News from the Chan Meditation Center and DDMBA)
The Future(Retreats, classes, and other upcoming events)
Chan Center Affiliates





Spring 2007
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Contents
From the Editor
"How Do We Achieve Peace?"(Opening and closing remarks to the Young Leaders Peacebuilding Retreat by Chan Master Sheng Yen)
Hongzhi’s Silent Illumination Chan(Excerpts from the Extensive Record of Chan Master Hongzhi translated by Guogu)
The Past(News from the Chan Meditation Center and DDMBA)
The Future(Retreats, classes, and other upcoming events)
Chan Center Affiliates



Spring 2006
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Contents
From the Editor The Four Foundations of Mindfulness(The first of two lectures on the mindfulness practices by Chan Master Sheng Yen)
Hold Steady, Swirling(Poem by Mike Morical)
Hung-chou Chan(An article on the origins of Chan Buddhism’s unique style of practice and discourse by Dale S. Wright)
Retreat Reports(Reports from the retreats at DDRC)
The Past(News from the Chan Meditation Center and DDMBA)
The Future(Retreats, classes, and other upcoming events)
Chan Center Affiliates




Spring 2005
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Contents
From the Editor Dharma of Teachings, Dharma of Mind
(The third in a series of lectures based on the Platform Sutra by Chan Master Sheng Yen)
In Memoriam(Professor David Chappell;Zen Master Seuhng Sahn)
“What Is Wu?”(Retreat Report by M.L.)
“Homage to Guan Yin Pusa”(Poem by Ernest Heau, Drawing by Rikki Asher)
The Past(News from the Chan Meditation Center and DDMBA)
The Future (Retreats, classes, and other upcoming events)
Chan Center Affiliates
Spring 2004
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Contents:
From the Editor
The Four Proper Exertions: Part Four(The last in a series of four articles by Chan Master Sheng Yen)
Like a Sound-Absorbing Board(An excerpt from"Master Sheng Yen teaches Guan Yin's Methods of Practice" by Master Sheng Yen, translated by Ocean Cloud)
Traveling with Shifu to Jerusalem(By Rebecca Li)
Everything is OK; Just Relax(Retreat Report by C.M.)
Why Yoga?(By Rikki Asher)
The Past(News from the Chan Meditation Center and DDMBA)
The Future(Retreats, classes, and other upcoming events)
Chan Center Affiliates
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An analogy used in the sutras is that of gold ore. Before it has been refined, the ore is still not in a form we would call gold, even though the essential content of gold is inside. By analogy, all of us here may have gold content but it has yet to be refined. What is vexation? Vexation is analogous to the impurities mixed with gold in the ore.
If people came together regularly to practice meditation, can that replace the teacher and student relationship?
We may experience joy by focusing on our breathing and walking, is it possible to elevate such joy into higher states?
Some people are filled with hatred and resentment; some may have been born that way, and some are influenced by the environment. If they do not meditate or know about practice, is there a way to make these people more enlightened?
The world is filled with unfair events about which we feel helpless, such as war which affects many innocent people. How can we possibly view these things as wonderful?
When we hear bad news we feel very sad, but when we get good news we are excited. However, you said that when we are walking or breathing, we should be filled with joy every minute. There seems to be some contradiction here.
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