Special Topics

Human Consciousness in The Chan Perspective (I)

(Lecture delivered by Master Sheng-yen at Brooklyn College on November 8, 1990)   Today's talk on human consciousness can be divided into three sections; first, the general Buddhist view; second, the Ch'an perspective; and last, the Ch'an approach to the problems that arise from human consciousness.   The General Perspective of Buddhist Practice Buddhism generally divides human consciousness into false mind and True Mind. False mind, sometimes called the ill...

Buddhists Engaging in Business

Q: What attitude should one have about engaging in business?​         A:  During the time of Shakyamuni Buddha, there were four castes in India: Brahmin, the religious class; Kshatriya, the political and military class; Viashya, the merchant class, and Shudra, the laboring class, which included those who worked in slaughter houses. Shakyamuni Buddha did not encourage people to engage in Shudra occupations, but allowed, and even highly praised, all the other en...

Is Intelligence a Hindrance to Practice ?

QUESTION:   One often reads that Ch'an and Zen masters frown upon intelligence. Master Ta-hui (1089-1163) made fun of scholars, and modern master Suzuki Roshi said that an expert's mind has few possibilities, whereas a beginner's mind is limitless. On the other hand, many Westerners who take up Ch'an practice are initially lured by the intellectual richness of Buddhist philosophy.  Can you explain this seeming contradiction?   SHIH-FU:   I dou...

Chan and Pure Land (I)

The Practice Method of Chan  There are two categories of Chan practice methods. The first category is by use of the Five Methods for Stilling the Mind, which is to first stabilize the mind, and then progress toward liberation. The second category of method is by use of the Huatou method from the Chinese Chan tradition, to totally crash the delusionary mind; in that moment self-attachment disappears, and wisdom manifests; such is enlightenment. To practice Chan, we must first rel...

Chan and Pure Land (II)

Chan and Pure Land Are Both Sensible Paths of Dharma Practices Chan and Pure Land both are sensible paths of dharma practice. Even during the process of practice, one can readily reap plenty of benefits for the body and mind. In the past, there have been much misconception by many, that since the goal of practicing Chan is enlightenment, without enlightenment all efforts are in vain; and that since the goal of practicing Pure Land is to cut off the cycle of birth and death, before one ...

The Self - Eastern vs. Western Philosophies

QUESTION: Eastern philosophies in general, and Buddhism in particular, teach that people suffer because of attachment to the self, but in the West the discovery and strengthening of one's "identity" or self is considered the path to success and happiness. How does Ch'an view this apparent contradiction? SHIH-FU: In Buddhism we can think of self in three ways: small self, universal self, and no-self. Most people look upon their everyday selves as being their true selves,...

Ch'an and the Absurd

QUESTION: The records of Ch'an are full of examples of bizarre dialogues and incidents between masters and disciples. Frequently these seem to have a quality of absurd wit or humor. What is the origin of this quality which appears to be unique to Ch'an, not only among religions, but even within Buddhism itself?   SHIH-FU: In training disciples, Ch'an masters employ methods that are appropriate for everyday practice, as well as methods that are used only in...

Practicing Chan and another Religion Simultaneously

QUESTION: Would Shih-fu discuss the practice of Buddhism in relation to other religions? Is it possible to practice Buddhism and still maintain faith in another religion? SHIH-FU: Buddhism can be practiced at five levels. The first level corresponds to the human realm, the second to the heavenly realms. In both of these levels, there are appropriate ways to practice according to Buddhadharma Most religions do not venture past the human and heavenly realms. Some, perhaps, ar...

Is the view of practice more important?

QUESTION: I have heard a Ch'an aphorism which goes something like this: "The practice is important, but the view of practice is even more important." This seems to contradict everything I have ever heard about Ch'an. Ch'an says to drop the ego and subjective views. Any view I can possibly have must be subjective and therefore a distortion of the truth. It becomes yet another obstruction. Also, isn't an experience an experience, regardless of what the person...

Chan and Spiritual Environmentalism

The Living Environment of Human Beings  Among the important living environment for human beings are these four: the meterial, the spiritual, the social, and the natural. 1.The material: including clothes, food, shelter, transportation, education, recreation, etc. 2.The spiritual: including anything beyond the physical and material that belongs to the scope of mind and activities of the spirit 3.The social: interpersonal relationships between individuals, family, society, a...