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What is Chan?

Titles The Principles of Chan Methods Three Stages of Chan Meditation What is Enlightment Chan Practice in the Daily Life The Effects of Chan Meditation The Meaning of Life Fundamentals of Zuo Chan Chan Practice and Faith In the Spirit of Chan What is Chan? Chan exists universally and eternally. There is no need for any teacher to trans mit it; what is transmitted is just the method by which one can personally exper ience Chan. In China, the Chan school developed from Indian Dhyana Buddhism, whi ch taught methods of meditative concentration aimed at the attainment of an abso rbed, concentrated state of mind. This school later spread to other countries fr om China, and is called Zen in Japan, Son in Korea, and Thien in Vietnam. Chan starts with gaining thorough knowledge of one's own self. Through letting g o of all attachments and giving rise to wisdom, our mind can regain its luminosi ty. We call this knowledge of the notion of self "enlightenment" or "seeing one' s self-nature." This is the beginning of helping yourself to thoroughly solve re al problems. In the end, you will discover that you as an individual, together w ith the whole of existence, are but one indivisible totality. Chan encompasses four key elements: faith, understanding, practice, and realizat ion. Faith belongs to the realm of religion, understanding is philosophical, pra ctice is belief put into action, and realization is enlightenment. Without faith , we cannot understand; without understanding, we cannot practice; and without p ractice, we cannot realize enlightenment. Together, these four concepts create t he doorway we enter to attain wisdom. The Principles of Chan The Principles of Chan The principle of Chan is taking body and mind from a state of confusion and disp arity through a condition of one-mind to the experience of no-mind (or no-though t). This is the result of letting go of one's clinging attachment to the sense o f "I," and to the illusion of the permanence of the self and phenomena. The sixth Chinese Chan patriarch, Huineng (638-713), once said, "From ancient ti mes up to the present, all teaching have established no-thought (or no-mind) as the main doctrine, no-form as the substance, and non-abiding as the basis." No-f orm is to be separated from form even when associated with form. No-thought is n ot to think even when involved in thought. No-abiding is the original nature of humankind." These "no's" are more commonly known as the idea of "no self," or as the substancelessness of the self. When practicing, the "ordinary mind" is the Path, advocated Chan master Mazu. Wh ether you are walking, standing still, sitting, or lying down, everything is Cha n practice. He taught that the bodhisattva path is neither the path of the ordin

ary people or of the sages. You should not intentionally practice for gain, or g et involved in what is right or wrong, grasping and rejecting. This is what he c alled the "ordinary mind." Three Stages of Chan Meditation Three Stages of Chan Meditation Stage 1: To balance the development of body and mind in order to attain mental and physic al health. Various methods of physical exercise for walking, standing, sitting, and reclining are used. They are unique exercise methods combining Indian Hatha Yoga and Chinese daoyin (exercises for channeling internal energy), and can bring physical health as wel l as results in meditation. Thus, one who practices Chan well will definitely ha ve a strong body capable of enduring hardship. The mind will establish a state o f self-confidence, determination, optimism, peace, and stability. Stage 2: From the sense of the small "I" to the large "I." When you practice the method o f cultivation taught by your teacher, for example, huatou or silent illumination , you will enlarge the sphere of the outlook of the small "I" until it coincides with time and space. The small "I" merges into the entire universe, forming a u nity. Since you have joined and become one with universe, the world of your own body a nd mind no longer exists. What exists is the universe, which is infinite in dept h and breadth. You yourself are not only a part of the universe, but also the to tality of it. Stage 3: From the large "I" to no "I." Chan is inconceivable. It is neither a concept nor a feeling. Because Chan is a world where there is no self, if there is still an y attachment at all in your mind, there is no way you can harmonize with Chan. Therefore, Chan is the territory of the wise, and the territory of the brave. No t being wise, one would not believe that after abandoning all attachments anothe r world could appear before him. Not being brave, one would find it very hard to discard everything he has in this life - careers, knowledge, and material thing s. In short, the purpose of Chan practice is to see your self-nature, and this insi ght is called "enlightenment." One might encounter all kinds of good experiences , physical and mental, which enhance your confidence and faith in your practice and in the Dharma, but they are not genuine enlightenment. Genuine enlightenment must be in accord with the principles of Chan: no-form, no-mind, and no-abiding . But even this is not enough. After seeing your self-nature, you need to deepen y our experience even further and bring it into maturation. You should have enligh tenment experiences again and again and support them with continuous practice. What is Enlightment What is Enlightment Enlightenment is seeing self-nature. Some called this nature "buddha-nature" or

the "nature of emptiness." When one has no attachment to the notion of "self," o ne's attitude in dealing with any situation is called wisdom. Wisdom is basically a selfless attitude. When wisdom manifests, one's nature is seen. The notion of "self" here can refer to an individual self, a group of selv es, or the universe as an all-encompassing self. When you practice, you might encounter all kinds of physical and mental experien ces. For example, you may feel like you are in the state of unity; you feel like you have completely unified with the universe. These phenomena may enhance your confidence and faith in your practice and in the Dharma. This is not, however, genuine enlightenment. Genuine enlightenment must be in accord with the principles described by the six th patriarch, Master Huineng: no-form, no-thought, and no-abiding. When the mind functions without abiding, it is called "no thought". No form means no unchangi ng or definite form. Wherever there are phenomena, there is illusion. Chan Practice in the Daily Life Chan Practice in the Daily Life Practice should not be separated from living, and living at all times should be one's practice. Proper practice includes cultivating mindfulness, compassion, intuition, and wis dom. Think less about oneself and more about others. Be aware of your changing m ental and physical conditions. See how they affect your thoughts, words and actions. In all our actions, we sho uld reflect on whether our intentions are beneficial to others. In this way, we will check ourselves before we act. If we put other sentient beings before ourse lves, those selfish feelings will not arise as much. Being considerate of others is as much a form of practice as meditation is. However, sentient beings have their own karmic causes and conditions, their own merits and virtues, their own karma. You cannot change them, nor can you take on other people's karma. Of key importa nce is one's intention. You should sincerely try to help others, whether or not you succeed. Do not do anything that will make you feel tense, tired, or miserab le. If you whip yourself all the time, you will be of no use to others or to yoursel f. Use meditation as a supporting discipline and the Buddhadharma as your guidel ine. Do the best you can, but don't push too hard. In all situations, you must practice. During your busy day, try to find little bits of time to sit, relax, and clear y our mind. It is not always necessary to sit on a cushion to practice for thirty minutes. You can do your practice anywhere, at anytime, at your desk, in a car, bus, or train. Relax your body and mind; breathe; settle your mind; let your mind and body refr esh itself. The Effects of Chan Meditation The Effects of Chan Meditation

Treasure in Chan Meditation In modern times, the great strides of science have solved many problems deriving from the natural and social environments, as well as from human physiology and psychology. And yet, with the advancement of material civilization, the problems waiting to be solved have actually increased. In fact, until the day the Earth perishes, it will remain impossible to complete ly overcome the problems posed by nature. Similarly, until the day our physical bodies die, it will still be impossible to entirely control our bodily functions . If nothing else, human beings are incapable of preventing the gradual diminishin g of the sun's thermal energy, so the weakening and eventual destruction of the Earth is inevitable. Again, as human beings cannot stop the aging of the physica l organs, the death of the physical body is inevitable, too. However, as long as the Earth remains inhabitable, we mprove our natural environment, so that it can become fe and existence. Likewise, while we are still alive, mprove our physical and mental health, so that we can happy lives. should do what we can to i more favorable to human li we should do our best to i live more comfortable and

Modern science may help us with these tasks, but we should not leave the respons ibility entirely to science. This is because the promotion of science depends on the mental and physical power of mankind, and the only method to bring out man' s greatest intellectual and physical ability, hidden deeply within our bodies an d minds, is through the practice of Chan (Japanese: Zen) meditation. Although the methods of Chan meditation trace their origins to the wisdom of the East, in reality, East or West, all great religious figures, philosophers, outs tanding statesmen, scientists, and artists benefit to some extent from the power of Chan meditative concentration. Even if they do not assume the specific Chan meditative postures or use the name Chan, nevertheless their ability to exercise extraordinary wisdom and persevera nce corresponds essentially with the effects of Chan meditation!Xthey are just u naware that such ability is the outcome of meditative concentration. Because of their exceptional endowments, they are able to obtain the power of meditative ab sorption without intentional effort, which then leads to their prominence in the ir respective fields. Since Chan meditation, as we already know, is the best means of uncovering one's hidden intellectual and physical power, it is not difficult for training in Cha n to transform an ordinary person into a great one, and make the ungifted brilli ant, the frail robust, the brilliant and robust even more so, thus making it pos sible for all to become perfect. Therefore, Chan meditation is the best means to perfect human life, advance soci ety, and improve the entire environment. For an ordinary person, Chan meditation can strengthen one's resolve and change one's temperament. Physically, it helps one regain vitality; psychologically, it gives one new hope as well as a new understanding of the surrounding environment. Therefore, Chan meditation can give you a completely new life, and make you realize how fortunat e, free, and vivacious you really are. The effects of meditation come primarily from concentrating the mind on one poin t, whether abstract or concrete. Therefore, meditative concentration can be reac hed in any position: walking, standing, sitting, or lying down. Whether one is e

ngaged in deep thought, silent prayer, prostration, recitation, or even close ob servation or attentive listening, whenever one's mind is focused single-pointedl y, there is the possibility of attaining meditative concentration. However, instances of achieving meditative concentration under such circumstance s are few and far between, and for the vast majority of people, it can never hap pen easily. It may have occurred once or twice to a very few people, but it cann ot be frequently repeated at will. It is because of this that the methods of Chan practice developed in the East ar e necessary. If you wish to obtain such experience, and therefore go to study un der a Chan teacher, you will find that these methods can make the experience of Chan, otherwise obtainable only by accident, a treasure that everyone has the op portunity to obtain. The Precious Human Body In seeking the experience of Chan, one does not have to adopt any particular pos ture. For example, the sick, the physically challenged, and the perpetually busy can follow the method taught by their masters and practice anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, wherever they might be, standing or sitting: in bed, i n a wheelchair, in a car, at a bus or tram stop, or in an office. The quickest and most effective method is of course practicing in the full-lotus posture. However, if beginning Chan students, particularly those of middle age or older, wish to become proficient sitting in the full lotus and to enjoy the p leasures of Chan meditation, they must first prepare to tolerate pain and numbne ss in the legs. The pain and numbness in the legs is actually a part of the beginners' struggle with their own weakness. Once they have gone through this phase, they would have at least strengthened their resolve and overcome their fear of difficulty and i nability to face reality. Thus quietly, they have taken one step forward in the journey of life. Of all the animals, only human beings have a body structure that allows the adop tion of the lotus posture. So, the methods of Chan meditation are designed only for human beings, and only human beings have the opportunity to enjoy the benefi ts of meditation. We ought to celebrate being born as a human being, and should treasure this huma n body that we have. The reason is that as humans, through Chan practice we can derive three major benefits: (1) a tough and pliable physique, (2) an alert mind , and (3) a purified personality. That is why Shakyamuni Buddha often praised th e preciousness of human life when addressing his disciples, stressing that among all sentient beings between heaven and hell, those with a human body are most s uited to the practice of the Buddhist path. The Effect of Meditation as Viewed by Scientists The benefits of Chan meditation were discovered from the reactions of the body a nd mind. According to Zen no susume (The Recommendation of Zen) by Dr. Kji Sat, Pr ofessor of Psychology at Kyoto University in Japan, Chan meditation produces the following ten psychological effects: increased patience, curing of various allergies, strengthening of willpower, enhancement of the power of thought, refinement of personality,

rapid calming of the mind, mood stabilization, raised interest and efficiency in activity, elimination of various bodily illnesses and attainment of enlightenment. Furthermore, Usabur Hasekawa, MD, writes in Shin igaku zen (New Views on Medicine and Zen) that Chan meditation proves effective in the treatment of the followin g twelve diseases: neurosis, hyperacidity and hypoacidity, tympanites, tuberculosis, insomnia, indigestion, chronic gastroptosis, gastrointestinal atony, chronic constipation, dysentery, gallstones, and high blood pressure. The highest objective of Chan meditation is without doubt the transcendence of d elusion and the attainment of enlightenment. However, if we begin with lofty tal k on the issues of delusion and enlightenment, except for a small minority who h ave good karmic roots, it will be of little use for the majority of people. So, we cannot but cite the results of scientific studies to introduce readers to the effects Chan meditation may bring to a person physically and mentally. To t hose who have had personal experience in Chan meditation, these scientific repor ts are of no use, but to beginners who would like to give meditation a try, thes e reports may serve as a lure. Ensuring a Safe Body and Mind In daily life, people's understanding of their own body and mind is extremely li mited. As for the mind, you have no time to examine how many thoughts come and g o in a day, or even in the minute that has just slipped by. You may have some im pressions of a few major thoughts, but about the numerous trivial ones that just flashed by, you are not clear. Furthermore, physically, your cellular metabolism has not for a single moment st opped. You may know of this fact since it is common knowledge, but in no way can you actually sense and feel it. Of course, there is no need for us to clarify t hese matters either. What is important is that we, living in a modern society, must always use a high level of intellect and great physical energy-whether in our studies or daily wo rk, whether making a living or contributing to the public welfare. Yet few peopl e realize that deep within our own reservoir of intellectual and physical energy , there is a huge leak through which tremendous amounts of energy meaninglessly leak out, when at the same time our production of energy is way below our capabi lity and our need. This is at once a waste of energy, and a stagnation in production: we have faile d not only to do our best to broaden our sources of energy, but also to properly reduce its expenditure. This truly is a great pity. What is this leak? It is our disorderly wandering thoughts, which consume our ph

ysical energy and lower our intellect. Among them, thoughts which stir our emoti ons, such as strong desire, hatred, arrogance, despair, etc., in particular can disturb the balanced functioning of our physiological system. If you learn the methods of Chan meditation, you can reduce these disorderly and useless distractions, and constantly keep your mind in a restful state of relax ation and calmness, so whenever it is needed to solve a problem, it can always f unction to the full. Moreover, Chan meditation can make the various endocrine gl ands in your body work in seamless cooperation with one another, and enhance the coordination between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. For instance, the pituitary, pineal, parotid, and thymus glands of the sympathet ic nervous system can cause the constriction of blood vessels to raise blood pre ssure, thus increasing the sympathetic tone of the body; the outward expressions are alertness and quickness in reaction. On the other hand, the adrenal, ovarian, testicle, and pancreatic glands of the parasympathetic nervous system can cause the dilatation of blood vessels, loweri ng blood pressure and reducing the sympathetic tone; the outward expressions are calmness and stability. Combining the merits of both systems will form a perfec t personality, whereas inclination to either side will lead to defects in charac ter. As we are aware, the pressure of work, overtaxation of one's brain, and external -stimulus-induced strong emotion, whether it be wild rapture or violent rage, ca n all give rise to constricted blood vessels, increased pulse rate, rising blood pressure, and shortness of breath, resulting possibly in such conditions as cer ebral hemorrhage, insomnia, palpitations, tinnitus, neuroticism, and indigestion . This is because when you experience severe emotions, the functioning of your e ndocrine glands become imbalanced, thus creating toxins in the blood. The endocrine system normally promotes a healthy body. However, if it loses bala nce, it will light up your body!|s red light warning system. Chan meditation can transform fluctuating moods into a clear and peaceful state of mind. Eventually, no danger will make you afraid, and no pleasure will make you wild w ith joy; no gain will make you feel wealthy, and no loss will make you feel depr ived; no opposition will irk you, and no compliance will delight you. Therefore, Chan meditation can ensure the safety of your body and mind. The Harmonization and Liberation of Body and Mind To clarify the above, a balance between the body's sympathetic and parasympathet ic nervous systems should be constantly maintained; otherwise, one will not only be unhealthy physiologically, but also be unhealthy in respect of psychological and character development. If the balance tilts toward the sympathetic nervous system, then one will tend t o be sensitive, selfish, impatient, irascible, unfriendly, and unlikable. If the balance leans toward the other side, then one will be simple, sincere, steady, optimistic, and genial. In the first case, on the positive side, one might become a proud and aloof phil osopher, a shrewd and steel-willed general, or a cynical scholar who detests the world and its ways. On the negative side, one might become an opinionated, viol ent, vile, and unruly rogue. In the second case, on the positive side, one might become a compassionate relig ious leader, a magnanimous statesman, or a broad-minded artist. On the negative side, one may become a person lacking ambition and principles who pays no heed t

o the line between good and evil and right and wrong, and who says yes to every request. Of course, if the balance is totally inclined either way, the result will certai nly tend to be negative. If one already exhibits positive traits, then it defini tely is due more or less to the harmonious cooperation between the sympathetic a nd parasympathetic nervous systems. Chan meditation is a method to harmonize the functions of the body's organs and tissues, helping them to work normally and to achieve their best performance. It starts with tuning the body, breath, and mind, so as to reduce the burden on th e sympathetic nervous system, weaken the influence of subjective consciousness, and gradually expand the boundary of self-centeredness until ultimately the exis tence of self is forgotten, and subjective consciousness melts away into objecti ve consciousness. For those having reached the stage, their mental afflictions, though not yet tho roughly eliminated, can no longer pose a threat to their physical and mental hea lth. The reason one has such vexations as greed, hatred, unforgivingness, and resista nce to self-reflection and reasoning lies in one's excessive subjectivity. Peopl e with such a mind-set believe that although they are separate from all things, nothing should contradict their subjective thinking. When they don't have what they want, they will strive after it; after attaining it, they fear losing it if it is really enjoyable, but fear not being able to di spose of it if they find it detestable. In other words, when they are unable to get what they want, they are no doubt afflicted, but even after attaining what t hey want, they are still encircled by various afflictions. Only Chan meditation can gradually transform our self-centered subjective mind-s et into an objective one. It will slowly raise us from the depths of the pit of distorted perceptions and afflictions to the free world of objective consciousne ss, thus liberating our body and mind. Longevity and Happiness Proper breathing bears a lot on relieving the burden on the sympathetic nervous system. Generally, people use their lungs and chest as a central point for breat hing. Chan practitioners, however, shift their center of breathing to the lower abdomen, or what we call dantian or qihai. The idea is to use the abdominal pressure as a medium, and then to employ the wi ll to control the parasympathetic nervous system, so as to dilate blood vessels, lower blood pressure, reduce the sympathetic tone, and increase the secretion o f acetylcholine to achieve tranquility, serenity, and detoxification. To shift the center of breathing from the chest to the lower abdomen cannot be a ccomplished with just a couple of days' practice. Some teachers of yoga and qigo ng suggest adopting abdominal breathing to achieve this purpose. But this method is not suitable for everybody. If those for whom abdominal breathing is not phy sically suitable due to congenital or acquired conditions force themselves to en gage in such practice, illness may result. The safe way is to breathe naturally. Just focus your attention on the breath don't strive for a quick result - and maintain normal breathing while you practi ce. After a period of time, your breathing will naturally slow down, reduce in f requency, and extend in depth. One day, you will find that your center of breath ing has already moved down from the chest to the lower abdomen.

Abdominal breathing can transport blood stored within the liver and spleen to th e heart to put the stored blood into use. The liver and spleen produce and store blood, holding a third of the body's total blood supply. Another third is in th e heart and another in the rest of the body's muscle tissue. The blood stored within the liver and spleen does not normally enter the circula tory system. Only when necessary is it used to compensate for a deficiency in th e heart's blood supply. Abdominal breathing is equivalent to adding an auxiliary heart to the human body, causing the blood volume in the circulatory system to increase onefold. Increasing the amount of blood in the circulatory system enhances its capacity t o deliver nourishment, thus revitalizing and restoring atrophied cells or tissue s, and enabling blocked and dying cells or tissues to gradually revive and regen erate. Because of this, Chan meditation can help cure various kinds of rare and serious medical conditions and chronic diseases. If you ever contract an unusual illness that barely responds to treatment, you m ight as well learn to practice Chan meditation. Although Chan meditation cannot cure medical conditions as swiftly as removing one's appendix would appendicitis , it can nevertheless stabilize your moods, reduce your panic and fear of your i llness, and ease the suffering caused from the sickness. Of course, there is a limit to our life span. Meditation cannot make you stay yo ung and alive forever, but it is certainly within its power to help you live a l onger, happier and more interesting life. Cultivating a Perfect Personality A perfect personality can be nurtured through education, art, religion, etc., bu t these are not entirely dependable. Some, lured by the temptations of fame, for tune, and power, may take up education, art, or religion, and appear to be of no ble character and saintly behavior, but in the depths of their hearts, they harb or unspeakable ambitions and intrigues. These people, we refer to as having a tw o-faced personality. Therefore, in this world there are hypocrites who have received good education, and devils hidden in churches amidst the clergy. This is because religious doctr ine, ethics, and art appreciation are all inculcated from outside - and sometime s even imposed high-handedly by the authorities - and so they do not necessarily correspond with the inner desires of each individual. Chan meditation is the best way to cultivate a perfect character. It helps one a chieve the goal of perfecting character by triggering one's inner awakening - no dogma is needed to apply any pressure. To a Chan practitioner, ethics and moral s are unnecessary. Besides, religious doctrine, ethical standards, and moral judgements all lose th eir applicability due to changes in time, environment, and person. This is why s o many new religions and sects within established religions have emerged in rece nt decades, almost like bamboo shoots popping up after a spring shower. Buddhism is also no exception to this trend. Although Chan stems from Buddhism, as it does not rely on external conditions or on words and letters, it is a method of cultivation that will always fit the ne eds of the time. The practice of Chan meditation is a process of baring one's "s elf", just like peeling the stem of a banana tree. After layer after layer of de luded thoughts are stripped off, not only is there no affected self to be seen, but there's not even a naked self there. First you try to expose your self, but

ultimately you find there is nothing to expose at all. Therefore, Chan practitioners do not need to hide anything from others, or feel any external pressure for trying to reform themselves, much less struggle intens ely as if enduring severe pain when cutting out a tumor. Chan meditation is simply to follow the method of practice to gradually reduce y our wandering thoughts. Once you reach the state of "no-thought", you will naturally realize that your e xistence in the past was just a series of accumulated afflictions and deluded th oughts, which are not your true self. Your true self is inseparable from all objective phenomena: the existence of eac h objective phenomenon constitutes a part of your subjective existence. So, you do not have to strive for anything or despise anything. Your responsibility is t o make your entire being more orderly and more perfect. Chan practitioners, having reached this stage, will deeply love humanity and all other sentient beings. Their character will be as clear and bright as the sprin g sunshine. Even though for the sake of conversion and enlightenment they may as sume emotional facial expressions, their mind will nevertheless constantly remai n as tranquil and clear as a crystalline autumn pond. We call such people enligh tened, sages, or noble ones. Shakyamuni Buddha once said: "All sentient beings possess the wisdom and merit o f the Buddha". So, if you long for the benefits that a Chan practitioner can rec eive, your wish will certainly come true. Irrespective of gender, age, intellige nce, physical strength, profession, social status, or religious belief, the door of Chan is open to all. Now, there is just one thing extremely important that I must mention: what you h ave just read is an article on Chan, and this article is absolutely not the same as Chan itself. To know what Chan really is, you have to determine to personall y and perseveringly learn under a Chan teacher whom you trust. Otherwise, these pages will have just provided you with some more information th at may tangle you up, and will not in any way assist you in your worthy wish to learn Chan. The Meaning of Life The Meaning of Life is to Fulfill One's Duties and Many people ask me, "What is the intrinsic quality of life? What is the meaning of life? Where is the value in life? What is the purpose of life?" The meaning of life is to fulfill one's duties y of life - from birth, to old age, to death s. For example, children grow up to be parents may be a supervisor, an employee as well as a ethical relationships shared between people. and be responsible. In the journe every person plays different role and students become teachers. You friend. All of these are duties -

When duties are not fulfilled, it is said that the roles are "neither fish nor f owl". This is a term used to describe strange phenomena. When looking at ourselv es from an ethical perspective, we often discover that we are "neither fish nor fowl".

The Value of Life Is to Offer and Contribute What is the value of life? Many believe that fame, status, power and wealth make a person highly valuable. However, are any of these real indications of value? Yes and no. The answer depends on how much the person has contributed to society . Where there is no contribution, a person with status, wealth and fame is of li mited value. Offering and contributing also begin by fulfilling one's duties in different rol es, taking on responsibility and putting forward contributions. In this world there are not many people that are directly related to us. If you were to write out the names of all those who have a direct relationship with you from the first moment you can remember, how many would you have? Probably not m any. Very few people will be able to write out one thousand names of those who a re directly related to them. There are only a handful of friends and relatives t hat one can think of. When it comes to people who are indirectly related to ones elf, then the figure will increase enormously. When we talk about responsibilities, it is usually ertain matters to a small number or specific group he other hand, is completely different. Whether or d, whatever the situation, whoever it is, there is in relationships both direct and indirect. about being responsible for c of people. Contribution, on t not an active role is require always a chance to contribute

For instance, if you are walking on the street and you see a child wanting to cr oss the road, you are under no obligation to help him cross safely, but this is an opportunity for you to make a contribution. In many cases people will think, "That child will have no problem crossing the road alone. Besides, I'm in a hurr y and have no time." But if a car suddenly hit that child, would you not regret it considering that you had the opportunity to save that child's life?

Bearing the Task of Contribution Thus, contributing is not necessarily restricted to that of our direct relations hips, but rather its scope can be large or small; its effects near or far. The s cope may be as vast as the entire world extending to all sentient beings. We sho uld shoulder and bear this task of offering and contributing. The meaning of lif e is to fulfill one's duties and responsibilities, and so long as one completes their own tasks, that is sufficient. But it is more than that: Performing one's basic duties cannot be considered a great contribution. When I was studying in Japan, my late master, Venerable Master Tung Chu, came up on several Taipei Temples in the midst of disputes over land rights and power. H e wrote me a letter saying, "Buddhism is currently in a pitiful state. Nobody is undertaking the task of spreading the Dharma but fighting over the property rig hts of monasteries." The dispute also involved government claims that since the monasteries were built by the Japanese during their occupation, they were assets of the enemy and should have been returned to the government. Despite this my m aster encouraged me by saying, "While everyone is fighting over the monasteries, no one is thinking about saving Buddhism by using the Buddha Dharma to save the minds of the people. It is our responsibility to save the future of Buddhism." The effort made by Buddhist circles to save monasteries was of little value. Rat her, the fundamental solution is to nurture professional Dharma teachers who can make more effective contributions to society. Buddhism has made remarkable cont ributions to contemporary Taiwan and it is the existence of Buddhism itself, not just its monasteries, that is of real value.

Recently, Nung Chan Monastery fell victim to the Typhoon Herbo disaster. The mon astery suffered enormous losses over the two days when it was flooded in one-met er deep water. Despite this, I said to all the disciples of Dharma Drum Mountain , "Although we are flooded, there is still a need to rally our followers islandwide to respond to the calls for the disaster relief of others." As a result, a fund amounting to three million Taiwanese dollars was collected. This is but one example of how Dharma Drum Mountain may be of positive value to society as a Bu ddhist organization. Similarly, over the past few years Dharma Drum Mountain Nung Chan Monastery has facilitated a number of activity camps for students at primary, secondary and te rtiary levels. Also, we have organized a number of meditation retreats of variou s levels - such as "Chan Meditation Retreat for Teachers" and "Chan Meditation R etreat for Professionals" - aimed at high school teachers, management personnel of tertiary institutions as well as professionals in industry. At the "Chan Meditation Retreat for Tertiary Institution Management Personnel", participants included tertiary institution principals, heads of departments and faculties, chancellors and deans. We have never expected anything in return for our contributions. But at the end of an activity a participant asked me, "How do we repay Dharma Drum Mountain?" I replied, "I hope that after this meditation r etreat you may go back to your home and school, and share with those who are rec eptive what you have heard, learned and believe to be useful regarding the conce pts and methods of harmonizing the mind and body. By doing so, you are repaying Dharma Drum Mountain." Among them a puzzled lecturer asked, "If this is the case, won't Dharma Drum Mou ntain go broke in the long run? Will Dharma Drum Mountain have finances for cons truction?" I said, "The more we are willing to contribute, the more people will come forth and support us." I told them, "All of you coming to Dharma Drum Mountain to participate in medita tion retreats are like retailers going to the factory warehouse to replenish sto ck. You become our agents upon returning. All your contributions to society beco me our contributions too. And you repay Dharma Drum Mountain by representing the value of Dharma Drum Mountain in Taiwan's society today. Accepting,Retribution,Fulfilling Wishes, Vowing The aim of coming into human existence is to accept retribution, fulfill wishes and make vows. We must accept retribution for what we did in the past, regardles s of whether it was from this life, our previous life or the innumerable lives b efore. We must accept karmic effects when causes and conditions ripen in this li fe. Wholesome actions bring positive results. Unwholesome actions bring negative results. We must continue to accept karmic results until Buddhahood is attained , whereby aeons of sentient relationships entangled in attachment are transcende d. However, when people experience positive karmic effects they take them for grant ed. And when they experience negative karmic effects they feel upset. Thinking t hat they have done nothing wrong in this life, they should not deserve bad karmi c effects. During one of the completion assemblies at the end of the 'Chan Meditation Retre at for Management Personnel of Tertiary Institutions', current parliamentarian, Mr Ding Shou Zhong, who initiated the retreats, shared one of his experiences:

"On one occasion my son was playing at a swimming pool. While water was being dr ained out of the pool, he saw one of his school mates being sucked into one of t he pipes and experiencing excruciating pain. He jumped into the water trying to save his friend but ended up with one of his legs being sucked in and sustained a serious injury almost requiring amputation. "When I heard about the incident, my first thought was, 'How strange! My entire life has been devoted to social work. I am a kind-hearted person. So why has thi s happened to my son?' At the time I found this very unfair. But after a while, the feeling of injustice died down and I started thinking, 'Perhaps this is the law of cause and effect! Maybe I have committed some unwholesome deeds in my pre vious life and caused my son misfortune.' And then I immediately thought, 'Maybe this child was predestined to meet with this accident and to survive this misfo rtune will mean that good fortune will follow.' Thinking in this way I no longer feel upset." In this frame of mind, Mr Ding Shou Zhong's emotions were calmed. The concept of 'accepting retribution' gave him the strength to face calamity peacefully. Another purpose of coming into human existence is to fulfill wishes. It is impos sible to know how many wishes we have made in the past. You all would have made many wishes when you were young. When I grow up I will do this. When I graduate I will do that. When I become a mother I must... when I become a teacher I will. .. We all wish to achieve many things in a lifetime. When I was young I enjoyed reading, but at the time it was hard to find any book s. During that time a fellow army officer said to me, "Mate! Since you like read ing books so much, in the future, I will open a bookshop and let you read as muc h as you want." "You can't put that many books in a bookshop. There isn't enough space. How abou t opening a library?" I replied. "Opening a bookshop can make money so that I ca n make a living. A library would be a liability and of no benefit to me," he sai d. I had never thought about making money and so I said, "In the future I will o pen a library." "Then you go and do that," he said. After saying so, I really did not know whether there were the causes and conditi ons to realize it. Thirty or forty years had passed and the opportunity finally arrived. I founded the Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies with a library th at holds tens of thousands of books. It is anticipated that one day Dharma Drum Mountain's Buddhist Library will have a collection of two hundred thousand books in addition to the Dharma Drum Humanities and Social Science University Library . My wish has gradually come true. Making a wish is a form of motivation. Once y ou make a wish you need to fulfill it. Fulfilling wishes is one of the aims in l ife. When people participate in our Chan meditation retreats I also encourage them to make vows. For example, when they are experiencing excruciating pain in their l egs as they meditate, they need to vow, "No matter how painful my legs are, I wi ll not change posture until I hear the sound of the bell". Admittedly, although such vows are often made, most people do eventually change posture for the pain in the legs is just unbearable. Some people stop wanting to make vows after doing it a few times. They wonder wh at's the point of making vows if something is not achievable? Nevertheless, I st ill encourage everyone to keep on repeating vows. As you slowly become more pers istent, your vows will gradually be fulfilled. A vow is of little strength if it was made once and not repeated.

When Buddhists perform their daily services in the morning and evening, included is the recitation of 'The Four Great Vows': I I I I vow vow vow vow to to to to deliver innumerable sentient beings. cut off endless vexations. master limitless approaches to Dharma. attain Supreme Buddhahood.

Many people even just after making such vows will often sulk as before or quarre l with family and friends, only to feel upset and remorseful afterwards. Recalli ng that a moment ago they just made vows to save innumerable sentient beings and cut off endless vexations, they have instead broken the vows. So I tell them th at as long as they continually make vows, the situation will gradually change an d the strength of their vows will grow with the passing of each day. The Different Stages of Generating Vows Generating vows can also be thought of as directing the mind to the path of cult ivation and giving rise to the Bodhi mind. There are five stages, beginning with the ordinary person and ending with the attainment of Buddhahood. The Path of Man The word 'Path' in the Path of Cultivation is like the journey of life. The expe rience and direction of life is known as the way of life. Each person living in this world has their own path to tread and this consists of short term, middle t erm and long term goals within the journey of life. Begin by learning what is cl ose at hand and then try seeing what is far ahead. Much like when embarking on a journey, you must begin with a single step and move forward one steady step at a time. Thus we know that, on a human level, directing the mind to the on begins with fulfilling one's responsibilities to the utmost selves with good character and virtues. When a person does not requirements of being a human being, nor behave or think like rson may be criticized as being 'a beast dressed as a man'. path of cultivati and equipping our possess the basic one, then that pe

Why is this so? First, they are pitiful in that they do not comprehend what it m eans to be human. Second, they lack self-control, unable to withstand temptation s, stimulation and threats from the environment. Thus they lose control over the ir mind and body. The mission of Dharma Drum Mountain is: 'Uplifting the character of mankind and building a pure land on Earth'. This means starting from the very basics of bein g human. Hopefully, everyone will bring out appropriate behaviors in the differe nt roles that relate to their identity. In other words, in order to direct the m ind to the path of cultivation towards Buddhahood, one must generate vows to ful fill oneself. The Path of Devas Directing the mind to the Path of Man is only fulfilling the obligations and res ponsibilities of being human. But those who cultivate the Path of Devas commit t hemselves to serving the whole society through contribution. The scope of care, contribution and service encompasses everyone in the world. Such people as these who have big hearts and who perform innumerable wholesome acts accumulate merit s that lead to a heavenly existence. However, those that cultivate the path of Devas only think about human beings on earth. They have not yet thought of other living beings nor have they thought o f those living in other worlds. Also, they are still intent on seeking heavenly

comfort. The Path of Self Liberation Next is the path of liberation. This refers to detachment from the four elements and five skandhas, so that negative karmic activity will not arise, vexations w ill not appear and the ocean of birth and death in the three realms of existence is transcended. The Path of the Bodhisattva Cultivating the Path of the Bodhisattva combines the merits of the Paths of Man, Devas and Self Liberation. This path seeks more than to establish good karmic r elationships in the human world. It entails all sentient beings in the ten direc tions of the past, present and future, as objects of their service, contribution , concern and care. In addition, the performance of wholesome acts is not for th e sake of positive karmic results. Mahayana Buddhism always encourages the culti vation of the Path of the Bodhisattva. The path of the Bodhisattva, however, mus t begin with making wishes, generating vows and fulfilling them. The Path of the Buddha Finally, the supreme stage is the Path of the Buddha, which is making vows for w hat is known in Sanskrit as 'anuttara-samyak-sambodhi', which means 'the ultimat e supreme perfect enlightenment'. The Heart Sutra, Diamond Sutra, as well as man y other Sutras have always encouraged us to vow to attain 'anuttara-smayak-sambo dhi'. This means not merely generating vows to accomplish the Paths of Man and D evas, but also the Path of Self Liberation, and more importantly, to generate th e Boddhisattva vow. Supreme Buddhahood is attained upon the perfection of the Bo dhisattva vow. Fundamentals of Zuo Chan Zuo Chan (meditation) was practiced in China long before the appearance of Chan. The earlier masters practiced according to methods in the Hinayana sutras, whic h emphasized the techniques collectively known as samatha-vipasyana. Generally s peaking, these were methods for achieving samadhi through three aspects: regulat ing one's body, regulating one's breathing, and regulating one's mind. Regulating the Body by Sitting To regulate the body by sitting, one should observe the Vairocana Seven-Points o f Sitting. This refers to the seven rules of correct sitting posture. Each of th ese criteria has been used unchanged since ancient days. Point One: The Legs Sit on the floor with legs crossed either in the Full Lotus or Half Lotus positi on. To make the Full Lotus, put the right foot on the left thigh, then put the l eft foot crossed over the right leg onto the right thigh. To reverse the directi on of the feet is also acceptable. To take the Half Lotus position requires that one foot be crossed over onto the thigh of the other. The other foot will be placed underneath the raised leg. The Full or Half Lotus are the correct seated meditation postures according to t he seven-point method. However, we will describe some alternative postures since for various reasons, people may not always be able to sit in the Full or Half L otus. A position, called the Burmese position, is similar to the Half Lotus, except th at one foot is crossed over onto the calf, rather than the thigh, of the other l eg. Another position consists in kneeling. In this position, kneel with the legs

together. The upper part of the body can be erect from knee to head, or the but tocks can be resting on the heels. If physical problems prevent sitting in any of the above positions, then sitting on a chair is possible, but as a last resort to the above postures. The positions above are given in the preferred order, the Full Lotus being the m ost stable, and most conductive to good results. Sitting cross-legged is most co nducive to sitting long periods with effective concentration. The position one c an take depends on factors such as physical condition, health, and age. However, one should use the position in which prolonged sitting (at least twenty minutes or more) is feasible and reasonably comfortable. However, do not use a position that requires little, or the least effort, because without significant effort, no good results can be attained. If sitting on the floor, sit on a Japanese-style zafu (round meditation cushion) or an improvised cushion, several inches thick. This is partly for comfort, but also because it is easier to maintain an erect spine if the buttocks are slight ly raised. Place a larger, square pad, such as a Japanese zabuton, underneath th e cushion. Sit with the buttocks towards the front half of the cushion, the knee s resting on the pad. Point Two: The Spine The spine must be upright. This does not mean to thrust your chest forward, but rather to make sure that your lower back is erect, not just slumped. The chin mu st be tucked in a little bit. Both of these points together cause you to natural ly maintain a very upright spine. An upright spine also means a vertical spine, leaning neither forward or backward, right or left. Point Three: The Hands The hands form a so-called Dharma Realm Samadhi Mudra. The open right palm is un derneath, and the open left palm rests in the right palm. The thumbs lightly tou ch to form a closed circle or oval. The hands are placed in front of the abdomen , and rest on the legs. Point Four: The Shoulders Let the shoulders be relaxed, the arms hanging loosely. There should be no sense of your shoulders, arms or hands. If you have any sensation of these parts, the re is probably tension in those areas. Point Five: The Tongue The tip of the tongue should be lightly touching the roof of the mouth just behi nd the front teeth. If you have too much saliva, you can let go of this connecti on. If you have no saliva at all, you can apply greater pressure with the tip of the tongue. Point Six: The Mouth The mouth must always be closed. At all times, breath through the nose, not thro ugh the mouth. Point Seven: The Eyes The eyes should be slightly open and gazing downward at a forty-five degree angl e. Rest the eyes in that direction, trying not to stare at anything. Closing the eyes may cause drowsiness, or visual illusions. However, if your eyes feel very tired you can close them for a short while. Regulating the Body by Walking Regulating the body by walking consists of slow walking and fast walking. Walkin g meditation is especially useful for a change of pace when engaged in prolonged

sitting, such as on personal or group retreats. Periods of walking can be taken between sittings. In slow walking, the upper body should be in the same posture as in sitting, the difference being in the position of the hands. The left palm should lightly enc lose the right hand, which is a loosely formed fist. The hands should be held in front of, but not touching, the abdomen. The forearms should be parallel to the ground. The attention should be on bottom of the feet as you walk very slowly, the steps being short, about the length of one's foot. If walking in an enclosed space, walk in a clockwise direction. Fast walking is done by walking rapidly without actually running. The main diffe rence in posture from slow walking is that the arms are now dropped to the sides , swinging forwards and backwards, as in natural walking. Take short fast steps, keeping the attention on the feet. Supplementary Exercise Sitting and walking are the two basic methods of regulating your body. There is a supplementary aspect which is to exercise for a short period after sitting, ev en if you only do one sitting per day. The form of exercise is a matter of indiv idual choice, but it should be moderate, such as Tai Chi or Yoga. Regulation the Breath Regulation the breath is very simple. It's just your natural breathing. Do no tr y to control your breathing. The breath is used as a way to focus, to concentrat e the minds. In other words, we bring the two things - regulating the breathing and regulating the mind together. Regulating the Mind by Counting the Breath The basic method of regulating the mind is to count one's breath in a repeating cycle of ten breaths. The basic idea is that by concentration on the simple tech nique of counting, this leaves the mind with less opportunity for wandering thou ghts. Starting with one, mentally (not vocally) count each exhalation until you reach ten, keeping the attention on the counting. After reaching ten, start the cycle over again, starting with one. Do not count during the inhalation, but jus t keep the mind on the intake of air through the nose. If wandering thoughts occ ur while counting, just ignore them and continue counting. If wandering thoughts cause you to lose count, or go beyond ten, as soon as you become aware of it, s tart all over again at one. If you have so many wandering thoughts that keeping count is difficult or imposs ible, you can vary the method, such as counting backwards from ten to one, or co unting by twos from two to twenty. By giving yourself the additional effort, you can increase your concentration on the method, and reduce wandering thoughts. Regulating the Mind by Watching the Breath If your wandering thoughts are minimal, and you can maintain the count without l osing it, you can drop counting and just observe your breath going in and out. K eep your intention at the tip of your nose. If, without any conscious effort, yo ur breathing naturally descends to the lower abdomen, allow your attention to fo llow your breathing there. Do not try to control the tempo of your breathing: ju st watch and follow it naturally. A less strenuous method, also conducive to a p eaceful mind, is to just keep your attention on the breath going in and out of y our nostrils. Again, ignore wandering thoughts. When you become aware that you h ave been interrupted by thoughts, just return to the method. Regulating the Mind by Watching the Dan Tian A third method of regulating the mind is to focus the attention on the dan tian, which is a point located below the navel. The dan tian is not an organ, but a c enter of psychic energy similar to the Indian chakras. This method is best emplo

yed when your breathing has naturally descended to the abdomen. The technique co nsists simply in mentally following the movements of the dan tian as the abdomen moves in and out as a natural consequence of breathing. This method is more ene rgetic than the methods of breath counting or following, and should be used only after gaining some proficiency in those methods. In any case, the method should not be forced. General Instructions Although the methods of meditation given above are simple and straightforward, i t is best to practice them under the guidance of a teacher. Without a teacher, a meditator will not be able to correct beginner's mistakes, which if uncorrected , could lead to problems or lack of useful results. In practicing meditation, it is important that body and mind be relaxed. If one is physically or mentally tense, trying to meditate can be counter-productive. S ometimes certain feelings or phenomena arise while meditating. If you are relaxe d, whatever symptoms arise are usually good. It can be pain, soreness, itchiness , warmth or coolness, these can all be beneficial. But in the context of tensene ss, these same symptoms may indicate obstacles. For example, despite being relaxed when meditating, you may sense pain in some p arts of the body. Frequently, this may mean that tensions you were not aware of are benefiting from the circulation of blood and energy induced by meditation. A problem originally existing may be alleviated. On the other hand, if you are ve ry tense while meditating and feel pain, the reason may be that the tension is c ausing the pain. So the same symptom of pain can indicate two different causes: an original problem getting better, or a new problem being created. A safe and recommended approach is to initially limit sitting to half an hour, o r two half-hour segments, in as relaxed a manner as possible. This refers not on ly to your inner, but also your outer environment. For beginners, if the mind is burdened with outside concerns, it may be better to relieve some of these burde ns before sitting. For this reason, it is best to sit early in the morning, befo re dealing with the problems of the day. Sitting times may be increased with exp erience. But people who meditate for extended periods may become so engrossed in their effort that they may not recognize their tensions. This frequently exists because their minds are preoccupied getting results. So t o work hard on meditation means to just put your mind on meditation itself. If y ou can just do that, there is no reason for tension to arise. On the contrary, d eeper relaxation, and calming of the body and mind should result. Chan Practice and Faith Chan Practice and Faith People interested in Chan practice often find it difficult to have religious fai th. As faith is intrinsically emotional, and Chan practitioners emphasize person al cultivation to gain physical and mental benefits or the experience of Chan, t hey find it hard to accept religious faith. This is actually a great mistake. Many people think that Chan practice depends solely on their own efforts, requir ing self-reliance, while those who practice by reciting the Buddhas name depend s olely on external help. Both of these views are incorrect. In reality, Chan prac tice also requires external help, and the practice of reciting the Buddhas name a lso requires ones own effort. One can hardly become an accomplished Chan practiti oner through ones own efforts. In India, China and Tibet, all mediators need the support and the assistance of teachers, Dharma-protecting deities, and the Buddh as and bodhisattvas. That is why Chan monasteries in China erect and worship the

status of Dharma-protecting deities such as the eight divisions of divinities a nd the four deva kings. In the past, eminent masters often encouraged Chan practitioners to entrust their bodies to the monastery and their lives to the Dharma-protecting deities during Chan meditation. You do not need to be concerned about your body since it will b e taken care of by the masters on duty. You simply follow the monasterys routines . However, to achieve good results in your practice, you need the support of Dha rma-protecting deities. Without such assistance, one may turn into demonic hindr ances. Practicing Chan depending solely on ones own efforts without believing in the power of the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and Dharma-protecting deities can not be considered practicing Buddhism at all. Chan practitioners should believe in that in addition to meditating diligently a nd working on Chan, they need to accumulate merit and cultivate virtue. The idea that one can attain enlightenment or liberation by meditating on ones own is its elf an obstacle that precludes real liberation. How can a self-seeking person be come enlightened? Therefore, the Chan school also emphasizes practices such as g iving and repentance. If one does not show concern for the benefit of all sentie nt beings, sincerely give of oneself for others, and devotedly practice giving a nd make offering, it will be quite difficult to succeed in spiritual practice. In the past, many as-yet-unenlightened Chan masters at large monasteries engaged in work cultivation, performing all linds of manual labor for their masters and m onasteries. Such work included carrying water, chopping wood, cooking and other kitchen chores, growing vegetables, as well as cleaning up and maintaining the m onastery and grounds. At traditional Buddhist monasteries, forty-eight types of work were performed by monastic practitioners. Even today, they are relieved of complex tasks only dur ing seven-day Chan retreats to avoid distractions. Otherwise, every monastic is assigned long-term tasks. Therefore, during our seven-day Chan retreats, we make it a rule to ask every participant to do some simple chores. Chan monasteries encourage monastics to give their spare cloths, money or other possessions to the needy, keeping only the most basic necessities. In the past, a typical monastic Chan practitioners belongings weighed just a little over one k ilo, because they gave away whatever came into their possession. From these examples, we can see that a Chan practitioner must be ready to make o fferings and practice giving, as well as give away unnecessary personal belongin gs to those who need them. Unfortunately, many Chan practitioners today are pres umptuous, arrogant, selfish and petty, and lack faith. This is pity and dangerou s. How did this happen? It is because people who take up Chan practice hope to h ave physical and mental experiences such as stability, joy and health. However, once these objectives are achieved, they see those achievements as the product o f their own efforts, rather than the result of a spiritual response from the Bud dhas and bodhisattvas, or the support of Dharma-protecting deities in the monast ery. Nor do they believe these effects are due to the skilful guidance of a vene rable master or certain teacher. As a result, they become arrogant, conceited an d complacent, lacking both belief and a sense of respect. Faith means that, in spite of our own limited capacities and knowledge, we believe in the existence of certain realities. This can best be illustrated by the Chin ese expression: We look up to a sages noble behavior like looking up to a lofty mo untain. Unattainable though it may seem, we yearn for it in our hearts. When we s ee a lofty mountain, even though we are as yet unable to reach its peak, we stil l believe that there must be great masters residing yonder, and the scenery must be fantastic. The higher we climb, the more we discover things we have never se en before. This is belief based on admiration. Standing far below, we revere wha

t is high above us, generating a belief that there must be some unknown power ab ove that can help us. But if our faith is insufficient, we will not be able to b elieve in things that Buddhism talks about that are beyond our ken, and our spir itual practice will not be effective. Chan Buddhism advocates belief in our own nature, that is, the belief that we ou rselves can attain Buddhahood, and that we are originally the same as all Buddha s, not lacking in any single attribute of a Buddha. Chan Buddhism asserts that i f only we let go of our self-centeredness, we will instantly see our original fac e, so we can all attain Buddhahood. Our original face is the Buddha in our own na ture. The Buddha-nature is inherent in us, not acquired after cultivation. For t his reason, many people misunderstand Chan Buddhism and neglect the importance o f faith. The basic theory that we are all intrinsically Buddhas is correct. But in practi ce, it does not quite work that way. As an illustration, everyone may become a p arent, but does that mean a newborn baby is a parent? He has yet to grow up and reach adulthood. He is not a parent yet, and is still a baby. Will a baby become a parent in the future? Not necessarily. Those who take monastic vows at an ear ly age and practice celibacy will not become parents, nor will those who are mar ried but infertile. In theory, everyone can be a parent. But in actuality, it is not necessarily so. Similarly, in a democratic society every citizen has the right to vote, and be e lected to office. However, while the majority has the right to vote, few have th e opportunity to be elected. Due to a lack of ability or causes and conditions, we can only vote, but can never be elected. There are, however, those who, upon hearing that in Chan teaching everyone has the Buddha-nature, fancy themselves as equivalent to Buddhas with perfect wisdom, though they are nothing but ignorant, mediocre people. Seeing Buddha images, they not only refuse to prostrate, but s coff, saying that as present Buddhas themselves, they do not prostrate to past B uddhas. They think, I have a Buddha within. Why bother to worship clay or wooden statues of Buddhas, or their painted images! Such people believe that only their own mind is the Buddha and that there is no Buddha outside their mind. When they see other people making prostrations, they call it attachment. When people prostrate to a venerable master, these self-proc laimed Chan practitioners shake their heads and sign, There is no need to prostra te to the Buddha, let alone a monastic. One time, while someone was prostrating to me, they were pulled up by a lay prac titioner who said to them, Do not prostrate! Do not harm the master! I, to whom th e followers made prostrations, was being harmed? I was puzzled, so I asked, What do you mean? How is he harming me? He said, If you are really an eminent monk of great attainment, do you still need to have people prostrate to you? If you do, that means there is attachment in your mind. The more people prostrate, the more you feel like an eminent monk. You will not attain liberation and enlightenment your whole life. I though to myself, Well! He has a point. The lay practitioner continued, If you really attained liberation, then when he p rostrate to you, you should reproach him saying, Dont be attached to anything. Sin ce one should have no notion of self, person sentient beings, or beings with a l ifespan, naturally there should be no notion of master and disciple. Why bother to make prostrations! Oh! This layman has a really sharp tongue. I asked him, Do you prostrate to the B uddha? He said, I prostrate to the Buddha within. I asked, How do you do that? He rep lied, I do not do it with my body, but with my mind. I asked, How do you do it with your mind?

He said, Achieving a free and easy state of mind is prostration. Having no obstru ctions in the mind is prostration. What he meant is that there was no need to pro strate to Buddhas or bodhisattvas, and he believed in nothing but himself. Actua lly, this is neither Buddhism nor Chan, but a type of arrogant, demonic view tha t lacks faith. This kind of person may have had some minor experiences in medita tion and developed a kind of overconfidence, which we call pride of superior atta inment. After having read some specious Chan texts, they are caught up in erroneo us views. While in this life, they think they have already attained liberation. Once they die, they may be reborn in the heavenly realm if they have great merit . However, because they do not have the right view and understanding or believe in the Three Jewels, they will fall into a miserable plane of existence once the y have exhausted their karmic rewards in heaven. If they have an improper attitu de, do not keep the precepts, and always do evil, they will fall into hell as fa st as an arrow. Therefore, Chan master believe in the existence of heaven, hell, Buddha land, an d worlds of troubles. Only to highly advanced Chan practitioners who are practic ing vigorously but still harbor some attachment in their minds would a Chan mast er say, There is no Buddha, no Dharma, and no Sangha, There is no heaven and hell . Chan masters say this because liberation can never be attained if ones mind is a ttached to the Three Jewels, heaven, or hell. On the other hand, beginning Chan practitioners must be remained to make a clear distinction between cause and eff ect, and between ordinary people and sages. Otherwise, in speaking against attac hment, they become trapped in inverted views, reversing cause and effect, and, a s ordinary people, passing themselves off as sages. Ordinary people are just ord inary people. We should not facy ourselves as ancient Buddhas who reappear in th is world, equal in all respects to the Buddhas of the past, present and future. Chan practice is not just sitting meditation. Chan practice is not about just ta lking big, or solely seeking enlightenment and wanting to be equal to all past, present and future Buddhas. While promoting Chan teachings, we should also empha size the importance of faith. By so doing, we can make it easier for people to p ractice successfully and help uplift their character. Chan methods also require that we let go of our attachment to the self. This mus t start with having faith, practicing giving, and keeping the precepts. Eliminat ing this attachment requires a sense of shame, humility, gratitude, and repentan ce. We should also have faith in the Three Jewels, Buddhas and bodhisattvas, the various Dharma-protecting deities, and Chan patriarchs, as well as the teachers who guide us in our practice. Contrarily, if you are so arrogant that, having barely embarked on the Chan path , you refuse to prostrate to the Buddhas, respect the Dharma and Sangha, or beli eve in the various Dharma-protecting deities, then do not even think about the p ossibility of attaining enlightenment or seeing your true nature. In the Spirit of Chan In the Spirit of 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 t hat a contradiction? Although Chan is not established on words, it has, among th e many sects of Buddhism in China, left behind the most writing. The primary goa l of these writings, however, is to show you or teach you that Chan is not estab lished on words and language and that Chan is a transmission outside the convent ional 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 mea n realizing the first meaning, or the ultimate truth. In Chan, there is also wha t 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 pointin g at the moon. No one would mistake the finger for the moon. Words, language, id eas, and concepts are like the finger and can express just the conventional trut h. 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 bro ught Chan from India to China in about 500 C.E., more than a thousand years afte r Shakyamuni Buddhas 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 (Buddhist truth or law) to Mahaka shyapa, one of the Buddhas chief disciples, who became the First Patriarch in the Chan lineage. The story is this: One day during a sermon at Vulture Peak, Shaky amuni Buddha held a flower in his hand in front of the assembly and did not spea k. No one seemed to know what this gesture meant, but Mahakashyapa smiled. The B uddha said, The Treasure of the Eye of the True Dharma, the Wondrous Mind of Nirv ana; only Mahakashyapa understands. This event marks the beginning of the Chan li neage and the master-to-disciple transmission that continues to this day. This s tory was unknown to Buddhist history until the tenth-century Song dynasty. But t he literal truth of the story is not as important as the message it contains abo ut the nature of Chan. Shakyamuni Buddha had two other disciples, one very bright and the other quite d ull. The first disciple, Ananda, had a power mind and a fabulous memory. However , he never attained enlightenment during Shakyamunis life time. Ananda thought th at Buddha would reward his intelligence with enlightenment. It never happened. A fter Buddha enter nirvana, Ananda hoped Mahakashyapa would help him. After Buddhas passing, Mahakashyapa tried to gather 500 enlightened disciples tog ether in order to collect and record the Buddhas teachings. He would find only 49 9. Some suggested that he invited Ananda, but Mahakashyapa said that Ananda was not enlightened and therefore was unqualified for the assembly. He said that he would rather have the gathering at all than allow Anandas attendance. But Ananda persisted. Mahakashyapa turned him away three times. Ananda said, Budd ha has entered nirvana. Now only you can help me reach enlightenment! Mahakashyap a said, I am very busy. I can not be of help. Only you can help yourself. At last, Ananda realized that he had to rely on his own efforts if he wished to attain e nlightenment. He went off to a solitary and secluded place. As he was about to s it down, he attained enlightenment! Why? At that moment he relied on no one and dropped all of his attachments. Another story describes the dim-witted disciple name Suddhipanthaka, or Small Pa th. All except Small Path could remember Buddhas teachings. If he tried to rememb er the first words of a phrase, he forgot the second, and vice versa. Buddha gav e him the job of sweeping the ground, since he did not seem fit to do anything e lse. After he had swept the ground for a very long time, Small Path asked, The ground is clean, but is my mind-ground clean? At that moment everything dropped from his

mind. He went to see the Buddha, who was very pleased with his accomplishment a nd affirmed that Small Path had become enlightened. These are recorded in the early texts as true stories, but their meaning goes be yond their original context. The first story illustrates that in practice, knowl edge and intelligence do not necessarily guarantee enlightenment and the second story shows that even a slow person can attain enlightenment. Although Shakyamun i Buddha, Mahakashyapa, and Shariputra were people of great learning, Chan has l ess to do with great learning than with the problem of the mind that is filled w ith attachments. Enlightenment can be reached only when ones mind is rid of attac hments. It is said that twenty-eight generations of transmissions occurred from the time of Mahakashyapa to the time of Bodhidharma, who is considered the First Patriar ch of Chinese Chan. His teachings were transmitted through a single line for fiv e generations until the time of the Sixth Patriarch, Huineng (638-713), whose ma ny disciples established many branches, some of which still survive today. Maste r Sheng Yen is the 62nd lineage holder of Chan from Huineng and the 57th generat ion in the Linji (810-866) tradition. In the Caodong lineage, Master Sheng Yen i s the 50th generation descendant of the co-founder, Master Dongshan (807-869). Chan is not precisely the Buddhism brought by Bodhidharma from India, but Bodhid harma brought certain insights to China, and the Chan tradition is related to th ese. He taught that everything comes from the mind, that the nature of the mind is Buddha-nature, that Buddha-nature is inherent in every sentient being, and th at the essential method for realizing this original nature is beholding the mind . These ideas were controversial when they were first presented in China, becaus e they seemed to contradict the more complicated philosophies and practices of o ther Buddhist schools, but they are really just basic Buddhism, stripped to its essence. There is a famous story about the enlightenment of Bodhidharmas disciple Huike th at illustrates the bare-bone nature of Bodhidharmas Chan. Huike went to Bodhidhar ma and said, Master, could you calm my mind for me? Bodhidharma said, Hand over you r mind and I will calm it for you! Huike searched within and then told Bodhidharm a that he could not find his mind. Bodhidharma then said, There, I have already c almed your mind for you. This is the account of Huikes enlightenment. Those of you who have been on retreat and suffered a lot of pain in your legs from sitting m editation apparently need not have done so. Unfortunately, you did not meet Bodh idharma. Bodhidharmas Two Entries and Four Practices There is an important work attributed to Bodhidharma called The Two Entries and Four Practices, in which he details more explicitly what sentient beings must do to realize their true nature. The two entries are entry through principle and ent ry through practice. Entry through principle means directly seeing the first pri nciple, or original nature, without relying on words, descriptions, concepts, ex perience, or any thinking process. Entry through practice refers to the gradual training of the mind. Bodhidharma describes entry through principle as follows: Leaving behind the fals e, return to the true; make no discriminations between self and others. In conte mplation, ones mind should be stable and unmoving, like a wall. This may sound lik e the direct, easy path to enlightenment, but it is in fact the most difficult. If we think of Bodhidharmas own enlightenment as an entry through principle, then we would have to say that it only came after a lifetime of practice, culminatin g in his nine years of meditation facing a wall in a cave of Mount Song. Actuall y, the method used to accomplish entry through principle is precisely this phras e, Ones mind should be stable and unmoving, like a wall. This does not mean that th

e mind is blank; on the contrary, it is alert and clear, illuminating everything with awareness and responding with compassion. This is ideal, and it is the sta te of mind referred to in entry through principle. The second entry to attaining realization is through practice, of which there ar e four: accepting karmic retribution, adapting to conditions, no seeking, and un ion with the Dharma. Each practice is progressively more advanced, and therefore , they should be followed in order. The first practice, accepting karmic retribution, involves recognizing the effects of karma, cause and consequence. Karma is a Sanskrit term that translates liter ally as action. When we carry out an action, a karmic force remains and that lea ds to a consequence in the future, whether in the present existence, or in a fut ure one. The karmic effect of a particular action is not permanently fixed. Beca use the continued performance of new actions modifies the karmic force according ly, but in all cases, there is a cause-and-consequence relationship, and the con sequence will be similar in nature to the case. Therefore when we face adversity , we should understand that we are receiving the karmic retribution from countle ss previous actions in countless previous lives. When we pay back some of our de bts, we should feel happy that we have the capacity to do so. If we have this pe rspective, then when misfortunes arises, we will be tranquil and without resentm ent. We will not suffer from disturbing emotions or be discouraged or depressed. This is an important practice. Karma, or cause and consequence, has to be understood and applied in conjunction with the Buddhist concept of causes and conditions makes it possible for things to happen. We can not and should not run away from our responsibilities and the retribution caused by our karma. But we should try to improve our conditions an d karma. If things can be improved, we must try to make them better. If they can not be changed, then we should accept them with equanimity as karmic retributio n. It might be easy to confuse the principle of causes and conditions with that of cause and consequence. In fact, the two principles are intimately connected with each other, and it is difficult to talk about one without mentioning the other. From the standpoint of cause and consequence, we can say that the earlier event is the cause and the latter event is the consequence. One event leads to the ne xt. A cause, however, can not lead to a consequence by itself. Something else mu st occur, must come together with the cause, to lead to a consequence. This comi ng together of events and factors is referred to as causes and conditions. A man and woman together do not automatically lead to children. Other factors must co me together in order for he cause (parents) to lead to the consequence (children ). Parents, children, and the other factors involved are all considered causes a nd conditions. Causes and conditions can also be thought of as dharmas, a Sanskrit term referring to all phenomena, whether physical or mental. This meaning is distinct from Dhar mawith a capital Dwhich refers to the teachings of the Buddha, and the methods and principles of practice. However, even the teachings of the Buddha and the method s of practice are themselves phenomena, or dharma. In any case, the condition (one dharma) that intersects with a cause (another dh arma) must have itself been caused by something else, and so on and so on, infin itely in all directions throughout space and time. All phenomena arise because o f causes and conditions. Any phenomenon that arises is itself a consequence of a previous cause and arose because of the coming together of causes and condition s. This leads to the concept of conditioned arising, also known as dependent ori gination, which means that all phenomena, or dharma, no matter when or where the y occur, are interconnected.

Since all dharmas are the consequences of causes and conditions, their arising i s conditional. This includes not only arising and appearing but also perishing a nd disappearing. A person begin born is a phenomenon, and a person dying is phen omenon; a bubble forming is a phenomenon, and a bubble bursting is a phenomenon; a thought appearing is a phenomenon, and a thought disappearing is a phenomenon . All dharmas arise and perish because of causes and conditions. The second of the four practices recommended by Bodhidharma is adapting to condit ions. It also requires an understanding of causes and conditions. Adapting to is conditions means that we should do our best within the constraints of our enviro nment. If our circumstances are fortunate or something good happens to us, we sh ould not get overly excited. Good fortune, like bad, is the result of karmic ret ribution. Why should we feel excited when we are only enjoying the fruits of our bank accounts. By the same token, we should not be overly proud, because good f ortune, like bad, is the result of many causes and conditions coming together. H ow can we take credit for our accomplishments, when they depend so much on the g ood will of others, on the sacrifices of our parents, on the circumstances of hi story? The practice of adapting to conditions means that you accept your karma, or cause and consequence, without being overly joyful, self-satisfied, or disapp ointed. Accepting karmic retribution and adapting to conditions are very helpful practic es in daily life. They allow us to improve our conditions and karma and maintain a positive attitude toward life. They help us enjoy equanimity in the face of c hanging circumstances, improve our behavior, and keep our relationships harmonio us. These teachings of Bodhidharma are not hard to understand, and any ordinary person can make use of them. If we can apply them in daily circumstances, we wil l fulfill our responsibilities. In this way, life will be more meaningful. The third of Bodhidharmas four practices is no seeking. There is a Chinese saying t hat people raise children to help them in old age, and people accumulate food in case of famine. Today, people in the West may not raise children just to support them in old age, but people probably still accumulate food, or wealth, in case o f hardship. This attitude is not the attitude of no seeking. In the practice of no seeking, we continually, diligently engage in useful activity, yet we have no thought that this activity is for our personal gain now or in the future. We do not look for personal benefits. This is not easy, and it is a higher level of p ractice than the second practice. In fact, in order to completely avoid self-cen tered activity, we must make the difficult step of realizing that the self does not exist. What we commonly think of as the self is an illusion. It is nothing in itself at all but a name we give to our continuous interaction with the environment. We c onstantly see, hear, smell, taste, touch, and think, and it is cascade of sensat ions, perceptions, and judgments, thought after thought, that we identify as the self. To say that the self is an illusion, however, is not to say that the self is a h allucination. The self is not a mirage. We say that the self is illusory because it is not a stable entity but, rather, is a series of events that are forever c hanging in response to a constantly changing environment. The self is not a thin g that stays the same, and as such, we say that the self is an illusion. For the same reason, all phenomena are selfless. All things change from moment to momen t, evolving and transforming into something else. The self, therefore, is a fals e existence ceaselessly interacting with a false environment. The practice of no seeking is an advanced practice because it is the practice of no-self. While it is normal for people to begin to learn and practice Buddhism for their own benefit, eventually, through practice, their self-centeredness fal ls away. They find themselves busy because others need their help, and they prov

ide what is needed. Such a person no longer even thinks about attaining enlighte nment. When you have ceased to be concerned about your own attainment, then you are enl ightened. Otherwise there will always be subtle, wandering thoughts and attachme nt to the desire to do something for you. If you want to free yourself from all worldly vexations and suffering and if you desire liberation, you are still atta ched to yourself. It is only when you have no concern about your own enlightenme nt that you can truly be enlightened. The practice of no seeking is the practice of this enlightened state. The fourth of Bodhidharmas practices, union with the Dharma, is a basic tenet of Bu ddhism that all phenomena are impermanent and do not have an intrinsic self. In the practice of union with the Dharma, we try to personally experience this impe rmanence and selflessness through direct contemplation of emptiness. This is the highest practice of Chan, and it leads to the highest attainment. It is the pra ctice that allows us to reach the point of entry through principle that we talked about earlier. But where does a practitioner begin? Different Buddhist sects employ many method s of practice that can be used by beginners, such as reading the scriptures, mak ing vows, doing prostrations, mindfulness, and meditating on the breath. These m ethods all help us to go from scattered mind, which is confused, emotional, and unstable, to a mental state that is tranquil and in harmony with our environment . The very first thing we should do is relax the body and mind. If we can relax, we will be healthier and more stable and will relate to others more harmoniousl y. There is a Buddhist householder who comes to the Chan Center who is very nervous . His nervousness makes other people feel nervous. When he talks to you, his bod y is tense, as if he is about to attack you or defend himself. People react to t his kind of behavior; it disturbs them. When I told him to relax his body, he re sponded in a tense, forced voice, I am already relaxed! He is constantly fearful a nd insecure, and because of the problems these feelings cause, he became to the Chan Center seeking help. He wanted to learn meditation, so I taught him to grad ually relax his body and then his mind. If we can not relax, there is no way we can meditate; and if we can not meditate, the practice of no seeking is complete ly impossible. This man was impatient and thought that if he got enlightened all his problems would disappear. He said to me, Master, I do not want anything; I j ust want the method to get enlightened quickly. Give me the methods as soon as p ossible. I answered, Such a method has not been invente. If I could invent a guara nteed, speedy method of enlightenment, I could probably sell it for quite a lot of money. Now I have invented the following method, and I offer it free of charge to whome ver wishes to learn. The method is to relax your body and mind. It is easy and s imple. Do not ask whether it can lead you to enlightenment. First you should be able to relax, and later we can talk about enlightenment. Close your eyes, lean back in your chair, and relax your muscles. Completely relax your eyes. It is ve ry important that your eyelids be relaxed and do not move. There should not be any tension around your eyeballs. Do not apply any force or tension anywhere. Relax your facial muscles, shoulders, and arms. Relax your abd omen and put your hands in your lap. If you feel the weight of your body, it sho uld be at your seat. Do not think of anything. If thoughts come, recognize them and pay attention to the inhaling and exhaling of your breath through your nostr ils. Ignore what other people are doing, and relax. Do not entertain doubts abou t whether what you are doing is useful. The principle of this method is to relaxto be natural and clear. Keep each sessio

n short, but practice frequently. In the beginning, each session should be ten m inutes or less, gradually working your way up to twenty to thirty minutes if you can do it without too much discomfort. If you do it longer, you will probably f eel restless or fall asleep. You can use this method a few times a day; it will refresh your body and mind and eliminate some of the confusion in your daily lif e. Gradually you will gain the stability of body and mind that makes it possible to, eventually, enter the gate of Chan. Chan: The Gateless Gate Chan is often referred to as the gateless gate. The gate is both a method of pract ice and a path to liberation; this is gateless, however, in that Chan does not rel y on any specific method to help a practitioner achieve liberation. The methodle ss method is the highest method. So long as the practitioner can drop the self-c entered mind, the gateway into Chan will open naturally. The primary obstacle to attaining wisdom is attachment to the self. When you fac e people, things, and situations, the notion of I arise immediately. When you atta ch to this I, you categorize and judge everything else accordingly: This is mine; t hat is not. This is good for me; that is not. I like this; I hate that. Attachmen t to the idea of self makes true clarity impossible. But how might we define non-attachment means that when you face circumstances an d deal with other people, there is no I in relation to whatever may appear in fron t of you. Things are as they are, vivid and clear. You can respond appropriately and give whatever is needed. Clear awareness of things as they are, in this sta te of selflessness, is what Chan calls wisdom. Giving whatever others may need w ith no thought of the self is what Chan calls compassion. Wisdom and compassion describe the awareness and function of the enlightened mind. In Chan, these two can not be separated, and both depend on putting down the attachment to self. As the Chan school evolved, two forms of practice developed, which correspond ro ughly to Bodhidharmas two entries, the one through principle and the other throug h practice. The method o Silent Illumination is the specialty of the Caodong tra dition, while Linji tradition advocates the method of gonan and huatou. Both app roaches can lead to enlightenment, the realization of no-self. The term Silent Illumination, or Mozhao, is associated with the Song dynasty Mas ter Hongzhi Zhenjui (1091-1157), although the practice itself can be traced back at least as far as Bodhidharma and his concept of entry through principle. Five generations later, the great Master Yongjia (665-713) wrote about clarity and qu iescence in his Song of Enlightenment. Quiescence refers to the practice of silen cing the mind, and clarity refers to contemplation, illuminating the mind with t he light of awareness. Hongzhi himself described the silent sitting as thus: your body sit silently; your mind is quiescent, unmoving. This is genuine effort in practice. Body and mind a re at complete rest. The mouth is so still that moss grows around it. Grass spro uts from the tongue. Do this without ceasing, cleansing the mind until it gains the clarity of an autumn pool, bright as the moon illuminating the evening sky. In another place, Hongzhi said, In the silent sitting, whatever realm may appear, the mind is very clear to all the details, yet everything is where it originall y is, in its own place. The Mind stays on one thought for ten thousand years, ye t does not dwell on any form, inside or outside. To understand Silent Illumination Chan, it is important to understand that while there are no thoughts, the mind is still very clear, very aware. Both the silen ce and the illumination must be there. According to Hongzhi, when there is nothi ng going on in ones mind, one is aware that nothing is happening. If one is not a

ware, this is just Chan sickness, not the state of Chan. So in this state, the mind is transparent. In a sense, it is not completely accu rate to say that there is nothing present, because the transparent mind is there . But it is accurate in the sense that nothing can become an attachment or obstr uction. In this state, the mind is without form or feature. Power is present, bu t its function is to fill the mind with illumination, like the sun shining every where. Hence, Silent Illumination is the practice in which there is nothing movi ng, but the mind is bright and illuminating. A gongan is a story of an incident between a master and one or more disciples th at involves an understanding or experience of the enlightened mind. The incident usually, but not always, involves dialogue. When the incident is remembered and recorded, it becomes a public case, which is the literal meaning of the term. Oft en what makes the incident worth recording is that, as the result of the interch ange, a disciple had an awakening, an experience of enlightenment. Master Zhaozhou was asked by a monk, Does a dog have Buddha-nature? The Master rep lied, Wu, meaning nothing. This is a basic gongan, possibly the most famous on rec ord. Here is another gongan, also involving Zhaozhou. Zhaozhou had a disciple wh o met an old woman and asked her, How do I get to Mt. Tai? She said, Just keep goin g! As the monk started off, he heard the old woman remark, He really went! Afterwar d, the disciple mentioned this to Zhaozhou, who said, I think I will go over ther e and see for myself. When he met the old woman, Zhaozhou asked the same question and she gave the same response: Just keep going! As Zgaozhou started off, he hear d the old lady said as she had last time, He really went! When Zhaozhou returned, he said to the assembly, I have seen through that old woman! What did Zhaozhou fin d out about that old woman? What is the meaning of this lengthy and obscure gong an? Around the time of the Song dynasty (960-1276), Chan masters began using recorde d gongan as a subject of meditation for their disciples. The practitioner was re quired to investigate the meaning of the historical gongan. To penetrate the mea ning of the gongan, the student has to abandon knowledge, experience, and reason ing, since the answer is not accessible by these methods. The student must find the answer by can (pronounced: tsan) gongan, or investigating the gongan. This req uires sweeping from consciousness everything but the gongan, eventually generati ng the doubt sensation, which is a strong sensation of wonder and an intense desir e to know the meaning of the gongan. Closely related, but not identical to the gongan is the huatou. A huatouliterally , head of a spoken wordis a question that a practitioner asks himself or herself. Wh at is Wu? and Who am I? are commonly used huatous. In the huatou practice, one devo tes ones full attention to repeating the question incessantly. The gongan and the huatou methods are similar in that the practitioner tries to arouse the great d oubt sensation in order to eventually shatter it and awaken to enlightenment. Chan Master Dahui Zhong gao (1089-1163), one of the greatest advocates of huatou practice, maintained that sitting meditation is necessary to settle the wanderi ng mind before a student can effectively use a gongan or huatou. A scattered min d lacks the focus or energy necessary to generate the great doubt, so in trainin g students, Master Sheng Yen first give them a method to unify the shattered min d. Once the students mind is stable and concentrated, the application of gongan o r huatou may cause the great doubt to rise. This doubt is not the ordinary doubt of questioning the truth of an assertion. It is the fundamental uncertainty, the existential dilemma, which underlies all of our experiences: the question of who we are and the meaning of life and death . Because the question inherent in the gongan or huatou can not resolved by logi c, the practitioner must continually return to the question, nurturing the doubt

mass until it is like a hot ball of iron stuck in his throat. If the practitioner c an persist and keep the energy from dissipating, the doubt mass will eventually disappear in an explosion that can wipe away all doubt from the mind, leaving no thing but the minds original nature, or enlightenment. It is also possible, and perhaps more likely, that the explosion will lack suffi cient energy to completely cleanse the mind of attachment. Even as great a maste r as Dashui did not penetrate sufficiently in his first explosive experience. Hi s teacher Yuanwu (1063-1135) told him, You have died, but you have come back to l ife. His enlightenment was confirmed on his second experience. Therefore, it is very important to have a reliable Shifu (the Master), or teache r, guiding one through all stages of practice. At the outset, attempting to gene rate the great doubt before the mind is sufficiently stable would, at best, be u seless and, at worst, give rise to a lot of anxiety. And finally, any experience one has as a result of the practice must be confirmed by an adept master. Only a genuine master will know the difference between a true and a false enlightenme nt. The practice of gongan or huatou is an aggressive, explosive approach toward enl ightenment; the practice of Silent Illumination is a more peaceful way. Both, ho wever, require the same foundation: a stable and unified mind. And both have the same purpose: the realization of the nature of mind, which is the nature of emp tiness, Buddhist-nature, wisdom and enlightenment.