Chan in Daily Life

In a foggy morning on January 18th, 2014, participants one after the other arrived at the Dharma Drum Mountain Vancouver Center to attend the one-day Chan in Daily Life workshop guided by Abbot Venerable Guo Xing.

“Where does happiness come from?” The Venerable posed the question after having had played a video clip of a blindfolded, young women passionately kissing – chimpanzees – thinking they were the young men they saw before they were blindfolded. Only after their blindfolds were removed, did they realize otherwise, and were shocked and embarrassed. Venerable Guo Xing then asked this question “Did the girls’ pleasure come from kissing chimpanzees or from thinking they were kissing young men”? After group discussion, we then began to realize that the girls were kissing the images of the boys from their memories. And, the girls’ pleasure came from the images arising from their minds.

Through watching a series of striking photographs with and without focusing 90% of our attention on the relaxation of our body, the Venerable led us to realize that we react to the external environment, people and occurrences with our judgements and our perception come from our experiences. As a result, we experience happiness, anger, worries, sadness, anxiety, vexations and sufferings in life. When our bodies are relaxed, we still can react to drastic situations, and our attitudes are relaxed at the same time.

Through a PowerPoint presentation, the Venerable introduced the concept of karmic consequence. In every moment, we receive instantaneous karmic consequences from our actions, speech and thoughts. Our state of mind and body is the result of the consequences we choose to bear.

He further illustrated that the results of our karmic consequences appear in feeling, sensation, and attitude; with feeling being comfortable or uncomfortable, sensation being pleasant or unpleasant, and attitude being in accord or discord. By realizing the interrelated operational principle of body, sensation, mind, and speech, we are able to control our instant karmic consequence. He explained that how our body, sensation, mind and speech influence each other. For example, when we are angry, our body is tense, our mind is agitated, and our voice is raised.

The Venerable continued by explaining results are directly derived from causes; e.g., anger will cause an uncomfortable feeling, and will not lead to a joyful sensation. For example, when we are waiting for a red traffic light to turn green, we constantly look at our watch and stare at the red light; our body is tense and stiff, the stomach is tight, we feel agitated, we think there are too many red lights along the road and they are the cause of our lateness. In this moment, our state of mind is impatient and agitated. However, if we are in the car with our girlfriend or boyfriend, we will be smiling and holding hands, our body is relaxed and feels comfortable, we feel happy; we accept the red light and patiently wait for it to turn to green.

To practice retaining 90% of attention on relaxation of our body, we were asked to concurrently walk and converse with others while holding a straw with a ping pong ball on the top of the straw. In addition, we were asked to place our name tag on the top of our head and hold another straw with a marble on the top of the straw.

We were asked to talk about the habits of our family members with the others and then hear others’ feedback while having the name tag on our head and holding on the straw to help us retain 90% of attention on relaxation of our body and 10% on discussing with and observing others. While retaining 90% attention on body relaxation, the volume and tone of our voice were low and soft, the words we chose became gentler.

Through a series of group discussions, we gradually were able to detect the states of our body, sensation, mind and speech. After having relaxed our body, our mind was calm and no longer agitated.

The Venerable used the terms “to king” others and “to be kinged” by others. The Venerable explained that “to king” (to dominate) and “to be kinged” (to be dominated) are happening all the time in our daily life. While going through the exercise of ordering someone to carry out a task by retaining 90% attention on body relaxation and 10% on kinging others, the whole process was carried out in a calm and harmonic atmosphere. It turned out that we became more considerate and constantly searched for polite and more acceptable words, instead of harsh words when we were kinging others.

During the Q&A, Venerable Guo Xing explained that Buddha is the mind, and is the Dharma; the mind is unmoving, it pervades and has the ability of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching and thinking. He further drew the analogy between the mind and the sea; our actions, speech and thoughts are like different shapes of waves arising above in the sea; while, waves are like various functions of the mind. The essence of each wave, regardless of its shape, is the sea.

Nevertheless, we have mistaken the shape of the wave for the sea. That is, we mistake the arising and perishing phenomena that are transient and fleeting for the mind. As a result, we segregate the sea into the wave of “I”, the wave of “you” and the wave of “he”, and the perceiver and the perceived come into existence. Duality results when a subject (perceiver) perceives an object (the perceived) as being separate. Yet, in reality, there is no separation between the perceiver and what is being perceived. Most people pay attention to everything with the perception of duality.

Actually, all phenomena, including our thoughts, are merely images created by our mind. Our reactions to the external environment, people and occurrences are merely responses to images created by the mind. There are no living beings, no phenomena in these images. Phenomena exist, however, we cannot see the phenomena as they are. Instead, the phenomena we see are merely our own perceptions, not the phenomena themselves.

In addition, our perceptions are products of our experiences. We are continuously grasping, interpreting, and filtering what we hear through our own judgements and perceptions. Hence, we do not realize that our reactions to the external environment, people and occurrences are merely responses to images created by the mind.

With the guidance from Abbot Venerable Guo Xing, we learned to practice how to implement Chan meditation in our daily lives. And, in turn he led us to realize that we mistake the images created by the mind for what is actually out there. With such understanding, we have the choice to be happy when we can better manage our emotions and our reactions to the world around us.

(Shared by Jen-ni Kuo, DDM Vancouver Center)

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