Chan Meditation Roadmap

Why Do Busy People Need Chan Group Practice Even More?

Many people regard Chan practice as being only for those who have time to spare. In fact, the busier you are, the more you need Chan practice. Master Sheng Yen once said that the busiest period in life is the most precious period, and also the period of time in which stability of the mind is most needed. Those who are busy have the most need for the concepts and methods of Chan.
When we sit down to meditate, our observation of the mind is sharpened. In stillness, we can practice in accordance with the principles of collecting the mind, concentrating the mind, and calming the mind, as well as become proficient in the methods to reach clarity and relaxation. Then, when we return to our everyday life, it becomes easier to maintain calmness and deal with stresses, conflicts, and difficult emotions that constantly arise. Extending the practice into daily life is one of the main emphases of Chan.


The Importance of Setting Aside Time for Chan Practice

For Chan practitioners, it is not easy to reach and maintain a state of calmness and harmony solely through their daily practice. Due to constant interactions with the external world and the nonstop flux of emotions in our daily life, it is not easy to reach a state of calmness in which the mind is unswayed by the environment. That is why it is important to take part in one or two-day retreats from time to time and to participate in intensive retreats at least once or twice a year. In the span of one's lifetime, it is even necessary to arrange for longer periods of intensive Chan practice retreat.
We come to Chan retreat with a relaxed mindset of going on a vacation. But practicing Chan is not a form of vacationing. In the intensive retreat, we use the method of living and practicing in a group to ease our self-centeredness, and, furthermore, to lessen our vexations. We enter the Chan Hall with the devotion of our full life. We vow to practice with total diligence and concentration, aiming to attain liberation from self-attachment within the set time frame.

Training the Mind through the Method of Everyday Chan

Certainly, Chan does not end within the boundary of the Chan Hall. Chan practice is for us to use every day and everywhere. Chan practice is not separable from everyday life. But if we fail to lay a solid foundation from within the Chan hall, we will feel lost and impotent when we face the complexity of life.
Therefore, it is ever more important for busy modern-day urbanites to seize the right condition and put down the daily grind; to go to group meditation practice in Chan centers or Buddhist temples. Besides experiencing the quiet life of a retreat, we reacquaint ourselves with the methods of practice, put our body and mind to exercise and experience a deeper level of clarity and wisdom. With the right mindfulness, we then return to daily life to continue our practice, to train our mind through our life situations, and to lift ourselves above our self-centeredness.


50 Questions about Practicing Chan at a Meditation Hall (禪堂50問), Dharma Drum Publishing Corp.