Two Entries

  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 established on words, it has, among the many sects of Buddhism in China, left behind the most writing. The primary goal of these writings, however, is to show you or teach you that Chan is not established on words and language and that Chan is a transmission outside the conventional teachings. So there is a reason for you to read such a book. The word Chan can mean enlightenment, and enlightenment can be understood to mean realizing the first meaning, or the ultimate truth. In Chan, there is also what is called secondary meaning, or conventional truth. Conventional truth can be expressed in words and concepts, but the primary, or ultimate, truth of Chan can not be expressed in words. In the Chan tradition, sometimes the ultimate truth is compared to the moon, and the conventional truth compared to a finger pointing at the moon. No one would mistake the finger for the moon. Words, language, ideas, and concepts are like the finger and can express just the conventional truth. These words and concepts only point to the ultimate truth. The ultimate truth can be called mind, original nature, or Buddha-nature. It is something everyone must experience for himself or herself. It can never be fully described. The Origin of Chan What is the source of Chan? According to the Chan lore, the monk Bodhidharma brought Chan from India to China in about 500 C.E., more than a thousand years after Shakyamuni Buddha's death. But India history contains few records of the interim period, so we know relatively little about the origins of Chan practice. We do know stories and legends that describe the origins of Chan. Most famous is the account of the transmission of the Dharma (Buddhi