Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What is Chan?

If you are in White Rock on Saturday mornings, you can meditate under William's tutelage. There is also a reading group that meets on Wednesday nights in Vancouver. Contact Marie at msabine@shaw.ca Both free/donation.

To reorient you towards Chan, I've included an excerpt below written by William directed to the Hermitage on Denman Island, for a planned 3 day retreat site in Sept 10th, 11th and 12th of 2010.

What is Chan (Zen)

'Chan is inconceivable and inexpressible. The five principles of Chan which summarize the Chan approach are:

1. Not relying on words and languages;

2. A special transmission outside the teachings (In the expression, ‘finger pointing to the moon’, finger is referred to teaching(s);

3. Direct pointing to the mind (mind is often referred as the moon);

4. Insight into mind and seeing into one’s own nature;

5. Sudden awakening and attaining Buddhahood.

Chan is not something new brought here to the west by Orientals. Chan is present everywhere: in space without limit and time without end. Nevertheless, the teachings of Chan have been brought from India to China, and further on to Vietnam, Korea, Japan and finally the West. Although the Dharma of Mind (Chan) is beyond thinking and speech, the Dharma of Teachings is transmitted by Chan Masters in order that Chan practitioners will be able to realize Chan.

The core parts of Chan teachings are listed in the form of question and answer (Q. and A.) as follows:

1. Q. What is Chan?
A. Chan is to live an ordinary life with an ordinary mind. Ordinary life is the life of inner peace and true happiness. Ordinary mind is the mind of wisdom and compassion (loving-kindness).

2. Q. What is wisdom and compassion?
A. In our daily life, wisdom is the living attitude without putting our ‘self’ into the situation. In our daily life, compassion is the living attitude of impartially helping all sentient beings in ‘just the right way’.

3. Q. How do we cultivate wisdom and compassion?
A. Wisdom and compassion cannot be attained through cultivation; wisdom and compassion are intrinsic to all sentient beings.

4. Q. How do we manifest ‘ordinary mind’?
A. ‘Letting go of all conditions and letting not one thought arise’ is the prerequisite to investigating Chan. At the right moment of ‘not one thought arising’, the ordinary mind (Chan mind, great mind or Buddha mind) manifests simultaneously.

5. Q. What is ‘true awakening/true liberation’?
A. A truly awakened and liberated one is able to see ‘things-as-they-are’ and ‘things-in-themselves’, that is to have the profound insight of ‘Independence’ and ‘Interdependence’ (Interbeing and Interpenetration), which are manifested spontaneously from the true nature of ‘no-self’.

William Tsao

William is a Chan (Chinese Zen) teacher of both Caodong (Soto) and Linji (Rinzai) lineages. He has practiced Chan with the best known Chan Master, Sheng-Yen, in North America for sixteen years. He received Master’s Confirmation as a Chan teacher in 2004. He has been teaching Silent Illumination and Huatou Chan regularly in Canada.

The traditional Chan method called Silent Illumination begins with nothing more than putting aside all thoughts except the awareness of oneself ‘just sitting’. It’s so simple in execution that it has sometimes been called the ‘method of no method’---yet, simple as it is, the practice is subtle and profound, with the potential for ever subtler refinements as the practitioner moves toward mastery of the technique. When fully penetrated, this radical form of emptying one’s busy mind-stream leads to the vast ocean of pure awareness.

The Huatou Chan is a skillful method for breaking through the prison of mental habits into the spacious mind of enlightenment. Much like a Zen koan, the huatou is a confounding question. Typical huatous are “What is wu (nothingness)”? Or “What was my original face before birth-and-death”? But a huatou is unlike a koan in that the aim is not to produce an answer to the huatou. The practice is simple: the practitioner asks the huatou relentlessly, during sitting meditation, and as well in every other activity. The practitioner doesn’t give up; doesn’t try to think a way to an answer. The practitioner resolves to live with the sensation of questioning that arises to pervade the practitioner’s entire existence. A sense of profound wonder ultimately leads to the shattering of the sense of an independent self.

William's master, Sheng Yen, has written numerous books on Chan which I have, and will lend out. Many of them are available at Chapters, or the local book store will order them. I also have other Zen books by Japanese and American Zen authors. Three of my favourites so far are the American Zen Master John Daido Loori, the Japanese Master Katagiri Roshi, and the Zen dissident Toni Packer (who split from Phillip Kapleau's group in Rochester).

A great Chen website is http://www.westernchanfellowship.org/new-chan-forum.html. As William is, John Crook is another teacher accredited by Sheng Yen. Crook's background is academia and psychology. It's an extensive site for information on Chan. You can spend the rest of your life there.

Got questions? Need a book? Give me a call 250 898 8201. Want to meet for a Zen coffee?


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