The Reality of Chan Practice

Online Tuesday sitting session sharing: Breathe In

Chan Meditation Center, NY


(Article by Calvin Chu / Photos by Yin Ting)

Breathe In.  Breathe Out.  Relax your body.  Relax your mind.  And may all sentient beings depart from suffering.
This was the thought pattern that I tried to develop every Tuesday evening in the Zoom sitting session with Changzhai Fashi and our fellow CMC community.  I enjoyed my time very much.  And I sincerely thank Fashi and the rest of the Sangha for making my Tuesday evenings memorable and fulfilling.

Every Tuesday evening, we would start off by practicing simple exercises - such as the eight-form moving meditation - as a warm-up. Then, we would move into a thirty-minute sitting guided by Fashi, and culminate in another thirty-minute sharing session highlighted by a lecture on Buddhism by Fashi.  We would end with a short chanting of the Heart Sutra and a Transfer of Merits to the world.

I came in every Tuesday with the goal of simply to enjoy myself.  Not to search for any tangible accomplishments.  Not to gain any incomprehensible knowledge.  Not to ask for too much out of one event.  But, to just simply enjoy myself.  
To enjoy the meditation session like it was my last one.  To enjoy every breath taken.  To appreciate every sensation.  To be at whole with the environment.  I think that was the most important opportunity that I gained during our Tuesday night sitting sessions.

I appreciate Fashi's thoughtful lectures at the end of each session.  It is not easy to speak for at least thirty minutes non-stop with an eager audience awaiting, but she was able to accomplish this on a consistent basis.  And I applaud her, and am thankful for her time and effort.  

I am also thankful for the timekeepers that volunteered their time to make the Tuesday sessions a coordinated and seamless experience for all those who joined.  Everyone contributed their part to make the session enjoyable and informative.

In these sessions, Fashi always encouraged us to let go.  To let go of our attachments.  To let go of the phenomenon that develop in our minds on a temporary basis.  It is important to relax the body and mind - in order to truly see the wisdom that is inherent in us all.  To separate the water from the waves.
These weekly Tuesday sittings would garner around twenty to thirty people on a constant basis.  And I hope that everyone was able to see the value in these sessions.  We have spoken about the Lotus Sutra, about samadhi, and about many core Buddhist principles that can help alleviate suffering across this wonderful world.
Sometimes, there is no need to search for tangible improvements.  The improvement will come naturally as long as you establish the Right View.  And that was my approach.  I looked at every sitting session as an opportunity to learn and an opportunity to develop the Right View in my mind.  Honestly, I struggle with it at times.  But, it is a constant learning experience.  
I was not searching for any divine wisdom.  Nor was I clinging on to every attachment of the spoken word.  I was just being there for the sake of being there.  And I think within that simple frame of mind, was where I felt comfort and stability.
When I was sitting in my meditative state, I was using the Silent Illumination method.  Just observing the phenomenon and thoughts as they come and go in my mind.  Not attaching to any specific thought nor idea.  Not trying to label anything as good nor bad.  As right nor wrong.  Just doing for the sake of doing.  
And in that simplicity was where wisdom arose.  Wisdom is inherent in us all.  It does not take a rocket scientist to discover this.  It does not take a full-fledged Buddhist to be aware of it neither.  When we simplify things down and do not overcomplicate, we can see life as it truly is.  
And that is simple.  Elegant.  Beautiful.  Wondrous.  And we can gain a sense of grateful appreciation for this world.  Even with the coronavirus pandemic raging across the world, we should understand that there are still a lot of things that we can be thankful for.
We can be grateful for our surroundings.  For living where we live.  For our family.  For our friends.  For getting the opportunity to breathe.  For having enough clothing on our backs.  For having sufficient food on the table.   For having a roof over our heads.  For everyone contributing to make our community just a little less tumultuous and a little more peaceful.
And I am thankful.  Thankful to have cultivated some peace, joy, and wisdom, from the Tuesday online sittings.  If I could use one word to describe the experience, it would be simplicity.  Simplicity in life.  Simplicity in being.  Simplicity in experience.  
Life does not have to be so complicated.  Life does not have to be so tumultuous.  If we just breathe in, breathe out, relax our body, relax our mind, and let go of attachments - as Fashi guides us.  We can find that pearl of wisdom that is inherent in us all.  
That wisdom may feel and seem different for each and everyone of us.  But it is there within us all.  Just practice simplicity.  Let go of external attachments.  And be there for the sake of being.  And hopefully, together, we can leave this world a better place than when we started.