The Development of Chan Buddhism in Contemporary Era

The Development of Chan Buddhism in Contemporary Era

On June 28, the forum titled “The Development of Chan Buddhism in Contemporary Era” was held to commemorate the 10th anniversary of late Master Sheng Yen’s passing. Invited by the DDM Sangha, his Dharma heirs from both the East and the West gathered together to share their understanding of Dharma from long-term practice. The forum saw nearly one thousand followers who were equally earnest to learn from the Dharma heirs at various meditation workshops in the afternoon at DDM World Center for Buddhist Education, Jinshan, New Taipei City.

By sharing the video “Immense Grace,” life stories about Shifu, Abbot President Venerable Guo Huei led all the Dharma heirs and followers on-site to look back on how late Master Sheng Yen spread the Dharma through his compassionate vows, upholding the precepts and global visions. Over and over again, Abbot President quoted late Master Sheng Yen’s exhortation on propagating Chinese Chan Buddhism, urging the followers to practice, dwell, realize, and propagate the Dharma. Buddhadharma could nowhere be manifested but in serving and benefiting the general public, regardless of their level.

Nine Dharma heirs and representatives were invited to participate in the forum, including Venerable Chi Chern (繼程法師), Venerable Guo Xing (果醒法師), Venerable Guo Jing (果鏡法師), Gilbert Gutierrez, Simon Child, Zarko Andricevic, Karmen Mihalinec, Ela Vukelja and Rebecca Li. In their insightful discussion, analogies in the spirit of Chan flew spontaneously, dispelling vexations and opening up a bright outlook for the audience.

In the discussion of “How does Chan respond to the issues in contemporary societies?” Venerable Chi Chern suggested that practitioners follow the causes and conditions, Venerable Guo Xing also reminded that what has been passed down from those lineage patriarchs is nothing but the direct realization of mind, which could be equally attained by lay practitioners as well.

Another discussion focused on the propagation of Dharma in modern Western society and the teacher-disciple relation in Chan practice. Venerable Guo Jing shared her experience in teaching college students and how she promoted Chan practice through camps at school. She found it quite difficult and quite different from teaching in the Chan Hall. Teachers have to come up with new approaches to adapt to the characteristics of students. Simon Child, on the other hand, focused his endeavors in particular on establishing programs for educating both dharma teachers and meditation instructors in the U.K., embodying his profound vision in continuing
the Dharma.

Sharings from Dharma Heirs:


Zarko Andricevic, who has just inaugurated the Chan Retreat Center Hartovski VRH in Croatia this past May, indicated that Chan School could be said to be the most prominent school in Chinese Buddhism, and through the lively ways of Chan, wisdom radiates its light and heat. The mind, however, is not bounded by cultural barriers.
Back the time when late Master Sheng Yen propagated Dharma to the West, he did not emphasize Chan as the “Eastern Way”; rather, Shifu guided Chan practices with essence of the Dharma, the true mind. In Zarko’s view, the nature of mind is free of cultural differences, which, therefore, would not necessarily bring about obstacles in Chan practice. Dharma is just like medicine, and the teacher plays an important role in giving the right prescription. He also mentioned that proper causes and conditions must be present, and both the teacher and the student should learn from each other, building mutual trust with respect and cherishing the shared Dharmic affinity. For Zarko, this forum is like a big family reunion at DDM, with so many people dedicated to continuing the same lineage. And it’s wonderful to meet with other Dharma heirs to exchange experience in learning and propagating the Dharma.


Gilbert Gutierrez, from Riverside Chan Meditation Center, L.A., California, stressed the significance of leading Chan practices from the “heart.” Regardless of the size of the group, when the practitioners could fully appreciate the compassionate deeds of the teacher, they would also be inspired accordingly and benefit from putting the dharma teachings into actual practice. Similarly, if one can remain mindful moment after moment, constantly returning to one’s compassionate vows, one would eventually reach peace of body and mind in their daily life, either in dealing with the external world or the internal spiritual practice.

To adapt to modern lives, on the other hand, internet technology can be of great help in promoting the Dharma, benefiting in particular those who can not meet their teacher in person. However, traditional face-to-face interaction would still benefit students most, if causes and conditions allow. Either way, it would still require continuous effort from the part of the student; the best dharma teachers can do is to assist and provide guidance.

After such a significant event, Gilbert would love to see more exchange and communication with DDM Taiwan and other branches in Asia to learn from each other further along the path.

Texts: Chang, Yao-Chung (張曜鐘)
Lee Fan (李東陽);Chang, Yao-Chung (張曜鐘); Chen, Le-Rong (陳樂榕)
Translation: Elenda Huang
Editing: John Wu (吳俊宏)

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