Chinese Chan Buddhism

Full-texts Contents:

Is Practice Necessary?

Emptiness and Existence?

Suffering of Suffering

The Method of Chan is the method of Settling the Mind

The Gateless Gate





Sudden Enlightenment and Gradual Enlightenment

Chan Buddhism is a synthesis of the wisdom of Indian Buddhism and the cultivation of meditative concentration. In India, wisdom manifested through meditative concentration, but from the very beginning, the goal of Chan has been the direct cultivation of wisdom. If we can successfully generate wisdom, then it will be more than an intellectual understanding; it will also help us realize that emptiness is universal, and that is the function and vision of Chan. But Chan is also comprised of two paths- that of sudden enlightenment and that of gradual enlightenment, both leading to the same destination. While some people might suddenly experience enlightenment or discover wisdom, for the vast majority the cultivation process proceeds gradually. More...

Is Practice Necessary?
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. More...

Existence and Emptiness
How we perceive “existence” and “emptiness” can reveal how shallow or deep our practice is. We need to understand this to avoid getting stuck and to be able to make progress. Before we have gained some real benefit from practice, we perceive phenomena as real and existent. In this ordinary state of mind, the “self” is still deeply embedded in things: “my” body, “my” house, “my” friends, and so on. After practicing well, we may reach a state of concentration where there are only a few thoughts in our mind. More...

The Suffering of Suffering The suffering of suffering is ordinary suffering that we can feel in body and mind. Examples of suffering of suffering would be the discomfort from illness, or being separated from a loved one. These kinds of suffering everybody can recognize. But on a much more fundamental level, the suffering of suffering means that we are not our own masters. We are constantly under the influence and conditioning of other forces, from the external environment to the experiences and workings of our own minds and bodies. All these conditions are “other powered” because all the causes and conditions that make up a particular moment are dependent on other things happening, either in the environment or in our own body. This is called “conditioned arising” or “dependent origination”. At a deeper level we are not even in control of our minds and thoughts. This inability to control our very own being is suffering. More...

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