Chan

  Perhaps some of you have heard the saying Chan (Zen) is not established on words and language and Chan is a transmission outside conventional teachings. But if Chan does not rely on words, why would anyone want to read a Chan book? Is not that a contradiction? Although Chan is not esta

  The principle of Chan is taking body and mind from a state of confusion and disparity through a condition of one-mind to the experience of no-mind (or no-thought). This is the result of letting go of one's clinging attachment to the sense of "I," and to the illusion of th

  Chan exists universally and eternally. There is no need for any teacher to transmit it; what is transmitted is just the method by which one can personally experience Chan. In China, the Chan school developed from Indian Dhyana Buddhism, which taught methods of meditative concentration

There is Nothing that Must Belong to You  Causes and conditions are outside of one's control and depend on the time and the environment. Therefore, there is really nothing that must belong to you, and that must be done by you. When it is feasible to do something, give your best effort to do it, but if it can't be done there is no need to be too disappointed or care too much about it.   There are two lines from the Diamond Sutra on the wall at Nung Chan Monastery: “Abiding nowhere, give rise to mind.” “Abiding nowhere” refers to the mind without attachments, but it can also be taken to mean there is nothing that must be accomplished or done. It is very painful to hold onto a certain thing, event, or person so strongly. At the same time, one who does not want, hold onto, or need anything would be very isolated. So “giving rise to the mind” means being mindful at every place and time, and working hard to achieve a goal. “Mind” here is the mind of wisdom, of doing one's best, knowing each other, knowing the environment and oneself. It also means using wisdom to evaluate the subjective and objective conditions in the environment.   We should use people to help accomplish endeavors we want to be successful, and use those endeavors to help people succeed. These two are complementary. Doing this while not being tied down or tying other people down is giving rise to mind. With this mind of wisdom, one can improve oneself and help others to succeed, to solve one's difficulties as well as others’ problems by adapting to conditions. This is a bodhisattva that can alleviate pain and suffering.   Resources Liberated in Stillness and Motion, The Attitude for Practicing Chan, p. 149 Master Sheng Yen's Talks Given at Nung Chan Monastery, 1995.   Book Store Liberated in Stillness and Motion Liberated in Stillness and Motion (Amazon)

There is Nothing That Must Be Done While Chan practitioners and non-practitioners share a common humanity, they have some fundamentally different attitudes. Something that appears to be of utmost importance to a non-practitioner may also be important to one who practices Chan, but not cri

SHIH-FU: You know you want to benefit from daily practice, but you don't know how to go about doing it. First, you should have a proper mental attitude towards practice. Second, you should know and use a method. Before you practice your method, it is important that your body and mind be relaxed. But you might not know how to relax then. In trying you might even become more tense; or you might relax so much you fall asleep. Both extremes are wrong. That's why a proper mental attitude toward practice is important. What is this attitude? Tell yourself that the time you spend every day in practice is the most enjoyable and comfortable and pleasant of times. Since we don't spend that much time each day sitting, the time we do spend is precious. If you have this attitude, you will not feel tense or sleepy when meditating.   Do you feel meditating is an obligation or a duty, or is sitting enjoyable? If you don't find enjoyment in meditation, then it would be hard to continue to practice. If enjoyment does not come naturally to you, then try to cultivate an attitude of enjoyment. First, before you sit, remind yourself to feel happy about what you're about to do. I remember when I was a student, I used to get up early and have breakfast. There were six hours between breakfast and lunch. By eleven o'clock I was starving. My last class was from eleven to twelve. When the bell rang I was so happy knowing that it was lunch time. My body and mind were merged in this happiness. This is the kind of attitude you should cultivate for sitting.   When you sit, think of it as a time without worries. Every other time there are difficulties to think about. It's like lifting burdens off your body and mind. It should be a relief. During meditation you let everything else go. Make sure your posture is correct. Once you have it right, forget about your body. If you worry about your body, you will not be able to relax. Then tel

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, and countries. 4.The natural: the natural resources that people depend on, including the earth and its oceans, mountains, rivers, forests and fields, etc. Tonight I want to talk mainly about the spiritual environment of Chan practitioners, especially with regard to how it differs from other approaches to spiritual life. The Spiritual Environment of Chan Practitioners People struggle with the external environment Since they live with themselves all the time, ordinary people think they know and understand themselves best. However, very few realize that they live outside rather than inside their mind. Indeed, very few can live within their mind. Since their living needs come from the outside, they misconstrue that vexations and troubles originate from the outside. Therefore, they endlessly pursue the outside environment while also resisting it. Proud people inflate themselves and want to control the environment. And those who lack confidence feel incompetent and insignificant like a fly, a parasite, or a grain of sand in the vast ocean; they too pursue the outside. Modern people often complain about the limited scope of their lives, that their space is too small and time is too short; this is caused by living outside the mind and not being able to unify the body and mind. Chan practitioners discover the vastness of the inner mind: Astronomers use high-power telescopes to discover new galaxies one after another, so it appears that we can observe an

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 f

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

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 practices or believes in? If the ego goes away, the ego goes away. What does it matter if the person is an atheist, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, or anything else? If you say that only Buddhists can have experiences where the ego drops, isn't this elitist? SHIH-FU: The saying is a paraphrase of a line which reads: "What one knows or sees is more important than where one is stepping." The phrase, "What one knows or sees, " should not be replaced with the word "view, " because view is something that can come from one's learning. The phrase refers to those things that come directly from one's experience. In the Lotus Sutra there is a saying, "To open what the Buddha knows and sees; to reveal what the Buddha knows and sees; to realize what the Buddha knows and sees; to enter what the Buddha knows and sees." What the Buddha knows and sees is emptiness, no form, no attachment, no phenomena.    The line should be interpreted thusly: "What is known and seen is more important than what one is doing." And "what is known and seen" specifically refers to what the Buddha knows and sees. How should a practitioner relate to this? First is the case of one who has experienced enlightenment and has entered into what Buddha knows and sees. How does one really know that what one sees is actually what the Buddha sees? One must gauge the experience against the teachings of the Buddha ─ the

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