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The Origin and Uniqueness of the Dharma Drum Order of Chan

On Sunday, June 14, 2009, Dr. Jimmy Yu (Guo Gu) gave a two-part talk on the topic of "The Origin and Uniqueness of the Dharma Drum Order of Chan" at CMC.

During this talk, Dr. Yu described the development of the major schools of Buddhism in China, Master Sheng Yen's predecessors and the core practices and teachings that influenced him. He also talked about the evolution of Shifu's thoughts, his teachings during his later years, and the survival of the Dharma Drum lineage.

According to Dr. Yu, Chan developed according to the random influx of Buddhist texts that were brought to China by Indian teachers. While other schools classified and systematized their teachings, there is no such systemization in early Chan. Rather, Chan survived based on its relationship to other schools of Buddhism, and only later, developed its own writings and formalized its teachings.

This early history of Chan has taught that the teachings are transitory if they are not organized and systematized, and the necessity to go through this process in order for the Dharma Drum lineage to survive, without losing the essence of Chan.

"We have to compromise, establishing a system of teaching, internally, understanding the core, externally, spreading this particular form of dharma, adapting it to society, the needs of people, yet without losing the sudden teaching of Chan. That's a daunting task."

Dr. Yu talked about one of the Buddhist teachers that influenced Shifu, Master Taixu, who in the 20th century, tried to adapt Buddhism so that it may survive in the new scientific age, by educating monks in a modern educational system.

This idea of adapting Buddhism to the present age, understanding science, and training monastics, inspired Shifu during his six year solitary retreat. Shifu's proclivity for education and pragmatism can be seen in his implementation of social programs such as environmental protectionism.

Other influences of Shifu's thoughts include the early Buddhist teachings, Master Hongyi's teachings on the precepts, the teachings of Master Huineng and the three (and four)seals of the dharma, the teachings of Master Ouyi Zhixu, the Tientai and Huayan schools, and the practice of Chan meditation.

(By Chang Jie)

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