Chan Methods / Practices


Full-text Contents:

Letting Go

What Methods of Spiritual Practice Do Buddhists Carry Out?

Embarking on the Practice.

Practice is like Tuning a Harp...

Mindfulness of Breathing as Applied to Advanced Chan Methods ...

Bitter Practice

Many of the names by which we know Chan masters are not their family names but Dharma names, bestowed often by followers. Often they were names of mountains where the master settled. These names often reflect the wintry environment of the places where they practiced. Very rarely do we find names associated with summer. Winter, symbolized by falling snow, represents the spirit of Chan, whereas the spirit of summer is quite different. In hot weather it is very easy to feel sleepy and dull-minded, while cold weather, especially in the mountains, is very good for meditation. To give a few examples, one master’s name was “Snowy Peak,” another was named “Snow Cave,” then there was “Snow Ravine,” and “Snow Cliff.” These Chan masters sought out places where there was a lot of snow. More...

Brief Reading

What Methods of Spiritual Practice Do Buddhists Carry Out?
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.

Buddhist practice is the realization of a Buddhist lifestyle. The four major aspects of practice are faith, precepts, meditative concentration, and wisdom.
Without faith, one has not even entered the gate of Buddhist practice. So, faith is the first requirement to practice Buddhism. And taking refuge in the Three Jewels is the first step to establishing faith.More...

Embarking on the Practice
The Supreme Way is not difficult
If only you do not pick and choose.
Neither love nor hate,
And you will clearly understand.
Be off by a hair,
And you are as far apart as heaven from earth.

The sole purpose of a Chan retreat is to practice. You should keep your attention entirely on practice, without trying to attain any results. Since many of you have travelled far, or have worked hard to set aside the time, you have a great deal invested in this retreat. It is natural that you want to gain something. But once you enter the retreat, you must put aside any specific hopes. More...

Practice is like Tuning a Harp
There are some people who practice what we call peaceful Chan. Those who practice this way give the impression of being very consistent, practicing all day every day. But such a person might practice for a while then think, “Oh! It’s about lunchtime.” After lunch they will rest for a while and then resume practicing. Suddenly, “It’s about time to do my laundry.” After the laundry they’re a bit fatigued so they take a break. Soon it’s time for dinner. After dinner, their stomach is a bit full so they have to wait a while before continuing to practice for a little while. Before you know it, it’s time for bed. Some practitioners will continue doing this day after day for years and people will regard them as great practitioners. But, in fact, they may still be the same as when they began to practice. If they seem stable and free of vexations, it is because they do very little, perform no serious work, and avoid involvements or contacts.More...

Mindfulness of Breathing as Applied to Advanced Chan Methods : Part I & II - Mindfulness of Breathing
Venerable Guo Huei, a Dharma heir of the late Chan Master Sheng Yen (1930–2009), is currently Vice Abbot of Dharma Drum Mountain in Taiwan. He holds a Doctor of Letters degree from Rissho University in Japan, and is Chairman of the Department of Buddhist Studies at the Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts. This article is taken from the concluding dharma talk of a workshop given by Ven. Guo Huei at the DDMBA-NJ chapter on July 26, 2015. It discusses the Buddhist meditation method of mindfulness of breathing, and its relationship with the advanced Chan methods of silent illumination and huatou. More...

Letting Go
Ming dynasty Chan Master Hanshan Deqing (1546-1623) [not to be confused with Hanshan (ca. 800-900 CE), the Tang dynasty poet] taught people to practice by letting go of thoughts as they arise in the mind. Whenever a thought arises, immediately let it go. This does not mean resisting or rejecting the thought; it just means not letting it affect you. So, if you are not getting anywhere in your meditation, the reason is probably that you are unable to let go of your thoughts. Even when you are paying very close attention to your method, stray thoughts may appear. This is very common, especially in the beginning. But rather then letting it disturb you, let it be a cause of your working harder on the method. More...

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